An Advent Tapestry–Lies in Manger Pressed as Hay

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst

Man altered by sin from man to beast;
Beast’s food is hay, hay is all mortal flesh.
Now God is flesh and lies in manger pressed
As hay, the brutish sinner to refresh.
O happy field wherein this fodder grew,
Whose taste doth us from beasts to men renew.
from The Nativity of the Christ  by Robert Southwell, Jesuit poet (1561-1595)
I spent considerable time up in our hay loft today, pulling bales down off the stack, throwing them down to pile up for feed for the horses over the next several days.  This poem by a priest from the 16th century kept resonating in my mind as I remembered the green fields that yielded this hay, gathered by our family and friends on a hot summer’s evening, and placed in the barn so I could do just what I did today.
I have written about hay before, but appreciate Southwell’s concept of God now flesh,  as the hay which forms His bed, refreshes and renews the sinner to righteousness:
Hay crew
Remembered on
Frosty mornings before dawn
When bales are broken for feed
And fragrant summer spills forth.

In the dead of winter
During the darkest blowing icy nights
The bales open like a picture book
Illustrating how life once was,
and will be again~

Rainy spring nights hay
Becomes soft bedding
For new foals’ sleep 

To guarantee sunshine
In the barn
On the darkest of days:
Communion.