G. K. Chesterton: A Little Litany

As the feast of the Immaculate Conception falls on the same day as the second Sunday of Advent this year, and so its celebration is thus moved forward to Monday the 9th of December, I thought this poem by G. K. Chesterton an appropriate celebration both of our continual looking forward to Christ’s coming in Advent, and of the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother the Virgin Mary. In A Little Litany, Chesterton celebrates the glory and beauty of the Incarnation, but also the choice before all ages of the Blessed Virgin to be the one who would bear the Son of God and give him His human nature. It is a wonderful reminder of the providence of God and of the honour given to Mary as the Mother of God:

When God turned back eternity and was young,

Ancient of Days, grown little for your mirth

(As under the low arch the land is bright)

Peered through you, gate of heaven–and saw the earth.


Or shutting out his shining skies awhile

Built you about him for a house of gold

To see in pictured walls his storied world

Return upon him as a tale is told.


Or found his mirror there; the only glass

That would not break with that unbearable light

Till in a corner of the high dark house

God looked on God, as ghosts meet in the night.


Star of his morning; that unfallen star

In that strange starry overturn of space

When earth and sky changed places for an hour

And heaven looked upwards in a human face.


Or young on your strong knees and lifted up

Wisdom cried out, whose voice is in the street,

And more than twilight of twiformed cherubim

Made of his throne indeed a mercy-seat.


Or risen from play at your pale raiment’s hem

God, grown adventurous from all time’s repose,

Or your tall body climbed the ivory tower

And kissed upon your mouth the mystic rose.



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