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Anglo-Saxon Britain (410-1066)
Annunciation : Cynewulf reflects on the mystery of the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary.

Based on the Old English of ‘Christ’, by Cynewulf. For a literal translation, see Anglo-Saxon Poetry.

‘Christ’ is an Anglo-Saxon poem in three parts by Cynewulf (possibly the 8th century bishop Cynewulf of Lindisfarne, in the Kingdom of Northumbria). In this extract, the poet reflects on the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary, to tell her that she is to become the earthly mother of the Son of God.

See Luke 1:26-38

YOUNG was the woman,
an untouched maid, he took for mother;
it was with no man’s caresses of love
that the bride grew great with child.
Never then, nor since, in this world
was any woman’s reward its equal;
it was Mystery, the Master’s secret.
All spiritual grace spread the earth;
at his coming many things long cloaked in darkness
were brought to light by the Lord of life:
ancient lore, the lays of prophets;
for the Creator unlocks the secrets of every prophecy
through hearts ready to praise his name.

“Curiosity makes you ask how I kept my maidenhood,
my inward hold, yet became mother
of the Measurer’s mighty Son. To that mystery
no man is party; yet Christ made known
that in David’s dear kinswoman
Eve’s offence is all effaced,
The curse lifted, the lowlier sex exalted.
Hope now springs that endless bliss awaits
both man and woman, in the world to come,
far above in angel-joy, with the Father of Truth.”

Based on the Old English of ‘Christ’, by Cynewulf. For a literal translation, see Anglo-Saxon Poetry.

The Pre-Eternal Counsel

‘The Pre-Eternal Counsel’ is sung at Great Vespers on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos, kept on March 25th each year (in former times, New Year’s Day). This setting by Russian Pavel Chesnokov (1877–1944) is particularly celebrated.

Find this music (or similar) at

REVEALING to Thee the pre-eternal counsel,
Gabriel came and stood before Thee, O Maid,
and greeting thee he said:
Hail, thou earth that has not been sown!
Hail, thou burning bush that remains unconsumed!
Hail, thou unsearchable depth!
Hail, thou bridge that leads to Heaven!
Hail, thou ladder raised on high that Jacob saw!
Hail, thou divine jar of manna!
Hail, thou deliverance from the curse!
Hail, thou restoration of Adam;
the Lord is with Thee!

More like this

Cynewulf (7) Extracts from Literature (93) Lives of the Saints (95) History (405) The Blessed Virgin Mary (11) Anglo-Saxon History (44) Mediaeval History (62) Northumbrian Enlightenment (30) Bible and Saints (110)

Picture: Via Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. View original
The Blessed Virgin Mary, from an early eleventh century mosaic of the Annunciation, in the Cathedral of St Sophia, Kiev.
By Cynewulf
(8th century)

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