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The World in the Hand of a Child

25 Dec 2021

The literature of medieval Ireland, like other medieval literatures, is full of references to the mystery of the Incarnation, and to the paradoxical image that expresses it: the Ultimate Reality, infinitely vaster than the universe, appearing as a helpless infant in the squalor of a stable. Especially striking is the evocation in the Old Irish cosmological treatise The Ever-New Tongue:

‘What thing could be more wondrous than the Child to be asleep in the arms of the Virgin, and yet a trembling upon creation and the angels? He has closed his fist around the seven heavens and the earth and hell and the many surrounding seas. The Child asleep in the arms of the Virgin, and yet a trembling upon the angels, and the heavens, and the lands with their inhabitants, and the whales in the seas, and upon the dwellers in hell—for fear of his power, and in hopes of deliverance from vexing him.’ (The Ever-New Tongue: The Text in the Book of Lismore, trans. J. Carey, Brepols 2018, p. 150)

Roinn na Sean- agus na Meán-Ghaeilge

Department of Early and Medieval Irish

Bloc A, Urlár na Talún, Áras Uí Rathaille / Block A, Ground Floor, O'Rahilly Building, UCC, Cork