Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Expectation. This feast has an interesting history that Brother Andre reviewed for us this morning (one aspect being the deferred feast of the Incarnation — Annunciation — from the days when no feasts were kept in Lent). In Spain, this feast day is Nuestra Senora de la O: Our Lady of the O, the “O” coming from the expression of longing said in the office of the Mozarabique Liturgy. In the Latin Rite, today’s feast comes in the middle of the “O” Antiphons (where we get the words for the hymn Veni, Veni, Emmanuel — in English O Come, O Come Emmanuel).
All this reminded me of a poem combining these ideas that I discovered some years ago when I was doing research for an English Literature class. I found it in the book, I Sing of a Maiden – The Mary Book of Verse, edited by Sister M. Therese of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine Savior, Macmillan, 1947. Since the book is out of print, I feel justified in sharing the following with you.
Lady of O
by James J. Galvin
By the seven stars of her halo
By her seven swords of woe
Oh Holy Spirit anneal my pen
To utter sweet words for the ears of men
In praise of Our Lady of O.
With seven O’s we salute Thee
Each evening as Christmas comes;
We hail thee adazzle with sunset gold
Repeating prophecies new and old
Like salvoes of guns and drums.
O Woman, the Word in Thy keeping
Thy secret from God most High,
Shall soon be whispered over the earth
And men shall listen and leap for mirth
Like stars in the Christmas sky.
O Lady, lone tent in the battle
Where our Leader awaits His time;
Though the day grow darker and Satan scorn
The tide of battle shall veer at morn
When He sallies forth to the cheer of horn
And trumpet and timbrel-chime.
O Stalk on the brink of blossom,
Shooting green through the frosty mire;
The peoples pray for thy Spring to come
And the mighty ones of the earth go dumb
For the Flower of the World’s Desire.
O Tower of Grace untrespassed
Since Eden by God’s decree;
At thine ivory spire and jasper gate
The pining kindred of Adam wait
For the turning of Christ the Key.
O Damsel more welcome than morning
To a world gone blind since the fall;
The stars go pale at Thy sandals’ sound
And skylines glimmer, and men peer round
For a virgin in simplest homespun gowned
With the Sunrise under her shawl.
O milk-and-honey-run Mountain
Whence the crystal Cornerstone
Shall issue unsullied by tool or hand
The Stone that shall fasten each race and land
Together like flesh and bone.
O City ashine on the hill-tops
The nations uplift their eyes
From rainy island and sunken sea
And the ends of the earth they throng to Thee
To dwell in thy Christ-lit skies.
By the seven stars of Thy halo
By Thy seven swords of woe
Forgive us, O Lady, these phrases worn
In praise of Thy season with God unborn
O ineffable Lady of O.