The First Day of Christmas
Many writers have noted that, in terms of national and international news, 2014 was a bad one. (It was a tough year for me, too.) Advent didn’t give us a break. I’d like to think we’re due for a couple good months.
The best way to shorten winter is to prolong Christmas; and the only way to enjoy the sun of April is to be an April Fool.
This year I went to church at the parish where I was a teen. The homilist was the long-retired priest who’d been our pastor back then.
I’ll always remember a Christmas homily he gave maybe 20 years ago, which began with him asking if anyone remembered last year’s homily. Nobody did. Well, he laughed, he didn’t remember a single one of his Christmas homilies. He explained that he didn’t think it was important that a homily be remembered. That the point was to connect the words of that day’s gospel with the lives of those in the congregation. If the homily was effective, then it would be reflected in those lives. If it was, its job was done. If not, it wasn’t worth remembering anyway.
This year, his homily was one of the best I’ve heard in years. I still feel it in my bones. Something about how we take the Good News for granted as we get older. Something about how the poor hear the Good News clearer with anybody. Praise for the pope’s “Fifteen Diseases” address.
As you might expect, I’m already hazy on the details.
Somebody forwarded the Happiness Pony team a quote purported to be from Charles Dickens about Worcester. It was Dickens all right, but not about Worcester. Happily, there is a section of his American Notes about Worcester, and it is wonderful:
A sharp dry wind and a slight frost had so hardened the roads when we alighted at Worcester, that their furrowed tracks were like ridges of granite. There was the usual aspect of newness on every object, of course. All the buildings looked as if they had been built and painted that morning, and could be taken down on Monday with very little trouble. In the keen evening air, every sharp outline looked a hundred times sharper than ever. The clean cardboard colonnades had no more perspective than a Chinese bridge on a tea-cup, and appeared equally well calculated for use. The razor-like edges of the detached cottages seemed to cut the very wind as it whistled against them, and to send it smarting on its way with a shriller cry than before. Those slightly-built wooden dwellings behind which the sun was setting with a brilliant lustre, could be so looked through and through, that the idea of any inhabitant being able to hide himself from the public gaze, or to have any secrets from the public eye, was not entertainable for a moment. Even where a blazing fire shone through the uncurtained windows of some distant house, it had the air of being newly lighted, and of lacking warmth; and instead of awakening thoughts of a snug chamber, bright with faces that first saw the light round that same hearth, and ruddy with warm hangings, it came upon one suggestive of the smell of new mortar and damp walls.
So I thought, at least, that evening. Next morning when the sun was shining brightly, and the clear church bells were ringing, and sedate people in their best clothes enlivened the pathway near at hand and dotted the distant thread of road, there was a pleasant Sabbath peacefulness on everything, which it was good to feel. It would have been the better for an old church; better still for some old graves; but as it was, a wholesome repose and tranquillity pervaded the scene, which after the restless ocean and the hurried city, had a doubly grateful influence on the spirits.