"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Monday, December 26, 2005

Take Joy!

Woke up this morning thinking about a comment by Stephen Nissenbaum I'd read in one of the numerous articles about Christmas that were published before the 25th. I can't find it now, but not matter. Toward the end of the article the reporter quoted Nissenbaum, who argued that the more raucous celebrations of Christmas were too deeply rooted in time and behavior to ever be fully extricated by pecknsniffian Christian concerns.

Well, more or less, that's what he said. I find the concern with the less decorous celebratory side of the season "Pecksniffian," myself, a consequence of Protestantism being linked to the more dour side of northern European and northern British cultures; but that's another matter.

Anyway, it occurred to me this morning how sad that sentiment was, because it relegated the sheer pleasure of the season to habit and circumstance, and left no room for joy. Certainly the anthropologist and the sociologist (good scientists all) would explain such patterns of culture and behavior in safely scientific terms. But when they had, won't they have simply torn apart the baby's rattle, and never really have explained to us what was so pleasurable about the noise from inside it, a noise now gone?

Perhaps the better explanation, and the one lacking from a scientific perspective (which merely means it cannot, however it tries, explain everything) is to simply say we need to pause, at least once a year, and take joy.

And a better thought is that, instead of waging a "war on Christmas," we need to re-discover the joy of the "Twelve Days of Christmas." Christmas isn't over on December 25th; it has just begun.

Take joy!

There is nothing I can give you, which you have not; But there is much, very much, that while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within reach, is joy. There is a radiance and glory in the darkness, could we but see, and to see we have only to look. I beseech you to look. Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly, or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel's hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty, believe me that angel's hand is there; the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Our joys too: be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts. And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.
--Fra Giovanni 1513


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