The Stars Retire, When First The Sun

This is the original text of this hymn from Fr. Oakley’s Lyra Liturgica (1865). It is listed in that hymnal under the heading “Stella Matutina.” The content of the hymn focuses on the feasts falling during Advent and the role of the Blessed Virgin in the prayers throughout. Mention is made of the Immaculate Conception, and so it is an appropriate hymn for that feast:

The stars retire, when first the sun
His giant race essays to run;
Those lamps that stud the arch of night
Wax pale before the fount of light.

One only star nor fades nor sleeps.
But still her twilight station keeps,
With eye undimm’d and beams unshorn;
The bright, the peerless Star of Morn.

When Christmas first reveals its light,
The Church’s firmament is dight;
Her stars still pave the wintry sky,
A great and glorious galaxy;

Martyrs and Virgins,(1) Pontiffs bold,(2)
And Doctors with their words of gold;(3)
Then comes a void, as, one by one,
The stars retreat before the Sun;(4)

Save that Apostle, whom his Lord
From chilling doubt to faith restor’d;
Who now beside His Cradle pays
No tardy vows, no faltering praise.

But Mary all the while is there
In hymn, or antiphon, or prayer;
Shedding o’er every page and line
A lustre, only not divine.

When Advent lessons first begin,
We muse on Mary clear of sin,
And in the Virgin’s primal grace
The promise of the Mother trace:

And meet it were, and duteous, sure,
That Mother should from stain be pure;
Who did, by high prerogative,
The Manhood to her Maker give.

For eight full days,(5) with reverence due,
We linger fondly o’er the view
Of her, on whom the Father’s Eye
Dwelt with intent complacency;

For, mirror’d in that glass, He saw,
Undimm’d by cloud, unspoil’d by flaw
(Albeit in creature’s meek estate),
The Beauty of the Uncreate.

Years roll away—the Virgin pure
Is stablished, lo, in grace secure;
Girlhood’s soft bloom still gilds her brow,
But matron honours crown it now.(6)

‘Mary in hope’—O Mother-Maid,
What thoughts thy wondering heart pervade!
But wait awhile, and God will ope
Visions, transcending e’en their scope.

Speed on, ye lagging moments, speed,
Till joy fulfill’d to hope succeed;
And Mary’s patient faith have won
God for our Saviour, and her Son.

Words: Fr. Frederick Oakeley, 1865.
Tune: “Antwerp” W. Smallwood (1831-1897).

These are Fr. Oakeley’s original footnotes in the Lyra Liturgica hymnal. The notes reflect the structure of the Roman Calendar at the time. St. Bibiana is no longer a universal observance and St. Thomas has been moved to July 3 on the current Roman Calendar:
(1) St. Bibiana

(2) St. Ambrose
(3) St. Chrysologus
(4) The Festivals of the Saints become rarer as Advent advances; and there is none between December 16th and Christmas- Day, with the exception of that of St. Thomas the Apostle. The Feast of the ‘Expectation’ is noticed later. The Blessed Virgin, meanwhile, is commemorated throughout Advent in the Office of the Season.
(5) Octave of the Immaculate Conception.
(6) The Feast of the Expectation follows the Octave of the Immaculate Conception after two days’ interval.


About Noah

musings of a young Catholic aspiring to be faithful to his Lord and God Jesus Christ through His Holy Catholic Church
This entry was posted in Advent, Frederick Oakeley, Hymns By The Greats, Major Feasts, The Blessed Virgin Mary, The Church Year, The Communion of Saints, The Immaculate Conception (December 8) and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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