A Poem for the Annunication: I Sing of a Maiden

Happy Feast of the Annunciation!


Back at the Behold Conference earlier this month, Sister Michaela, one of the Sisters of Life, quoted from a poem by Fr. John Duffy, a Redemptorist priest.  It’s called “I Sing of a Maiden” and it was a favorite poem of John Cardinal O’Connor, the founder of the Sisters of Life.  In fact, each of the Sisters wear a medal with “Amd nothing would again be casual or small,” part of the poem, inscribed on the back.  Sister Michaela shared with me the entire poem, and I’m sharing it here for all of us on this great feast.


I Sing of a Maiden
by Rev. John Duffy, C.S.s.R.


And was it true, 
The stranger standing so,
And saying things that lifted her in two,
And put her back before the world’s beginning?
Her eyes filled slowly with the morning glow.
Her drowsy ear drank in a first sweet dubious bird.
Her cheek against the pillow woke and stirred
To gales enriched by passage over dew,
And friendly fields and slopes of Galilee
Arose in tremulous intermixture with her dreams,
Till she remembered suddenly…


Although the morning beams 
Came spilling in the gradual rubric known to every day,
And hills stood ruinous, as an eclipse,
Against the softly spreading ray,
Not touched by any strange apocalypse
Like that which yesterday had lifted her sublime,
And put her back before the first grey morn of Time —
Though nothing was disturbed from where she lay and saw,
Now she remembered with a quick and panting awe
That someone came, and took in hand her heart,
And broke irresistibly apart,
With what he said, and how in tall suspense
He lingered, while the white celestial inference,
Pushing her fears apart, went softly home.


Then she had faltered her reply,
And felt a sudden burden of eternal years,
And shamed by the angelic stranger standing by
Had bowed her head to hide her human tears.
Never again would she awake 
And find herself the buoyant Galilean lass,
But into her dissolving dreams would break
A hovering consciousness too terrible to pass —
A new awareness in her body when she stirred,
A sense of Light within her virgin gloom:
She was the Mother of the wandering Word, 
Little and terrifying in her laboring womb.
And nothing would again be casual and small,
But everything with light invested, overspilled
With terror and divinity, the dawn, the first bird’s call, 
The silhouetted pitcher waiting to be filled.

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