I would like to wish all my readers a happy Christmas.
For some, Christmas is the prefiguration of that day sometime in the future when our divided humanity will be recapitulated and incorporated into the divinity of Christ the Incarnate Word. For others, it will be a time of drunken feasting and conflicts with families. For others it will be a sad and lonely time at home or banished to the streets of our cities where no one cares.
As I intimated a few days ago, I find Christmas a little sad in comparison with the bright lights and glitter of our supermarkets. It represents a small light in the midst of a great darkness, the Ungrund of Jakob Böhme, the primaeval chaos and disorder, from which comes our illumination and quiet joy in the silence. Some of my best Christmas feasts were spent at seminary or serving the little parish near Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme where I was in 1995 until 1996 and my decision to return to France. It is essential to hear the quiet voice of the Christmas message in the midst of the hubbub of noise, bright lights and people having a good time.
If you understand French, I recommend this salutary Christmas story from Alphonse Daudet, the famous author from Provence who wrote Lettres de mon Moulin. I lived in Marseilles briefly from 1993 until the summer of 1994. It is another France, another culture near the Italian border. Les Trois Messes Basses is a story of intemperance and temptation, of another era. A priest is tempted by the Devil to get through the three Masses of Christmas as quickly as possible to enjoy the festivities. As he tucks in to his meal, he chokes of a piece of meat, dies and has a hundred years of Purgatory to endure. The story is profoundly human and full of the charm of Provence.