Sunday, December 24, 2017

Nollaigh Shona Duit

Happy Christmas to all my readers! Thank you so much for visiting the blog, for commenting, for answering my prayer requests, for emailing me, and for all the other kindnesses you have shown me in the last year, and indeed before that. Thank you. I hope you all have a good Christmas.

So here's another Christmas repeat...I posted a link to this video before, but it's appropriate to post it again on Christmas Eve, since it comes from Christmas Eve 1986. (The relevant section, which is a short religious meditation called Night Light, begins around 2:05). It fills me with an overwhelming nostalgia for something I can barely remember myself.

Only thirty years ago, a priest could come on Irish national television and speak confidently about "our profound faith in Jesus Christ" as a nation. Note also how the supernatural aspect is the first aspect he draws out. Even the "tradition of hospitality" isn't put in overtly political terms. Today the entire thing would simply be more open borders propaganda.

But I don't want to dwell on the negative. I like the kindness and gentleness in this priest's eyes.

Isn't that kindness and gentleness the essence of Christmas? The paradox of God Almighty as a little baby never loses its power over the human imagination. This atmosphere is nowhere better expressed that in G.K. Chesterton's famous meditation upon the Nativity scene, in The Everlasting Man. (The reference to the "inner room in the very heart of his own house" is particularly appealing to me, since I've always been fascinated by the idea and the metaphor of discovering a hidden room or passage in one's own home, and indeed I've dreamed about it at least once):

No other story, no pagan legend or philosophical anecdote or historical event, does in fact affect any of us with that peculiar and even poignant impression produced on us by the word Bethlehem. No other birth of a god or childhood of a sage seems to us to be Christmas or anything like Christmas. It is either too cold or too frivolous, or too formal and classical, or too simple and savage, or too occult and complicated. Not one of us, whatever his opinions, would ever go to such a scene with the sense that he was going home. He might admire it because it was poetical, or because it was philosophical or any number of other things in separation; but not because it was itself. The truth is that there is a quite peculiar and individual character about the hold of this story on human nature; it is not in its psychological substance at all like a mere legend or the life of a great man.

It does not exactly in the ordinary sense turn our minds to greatness; to those extensions and exaggerations of humanity which are turned into gods and heroes, even by the healthiest sort of hero worship. It does not exactly work outwards, adventurously to the wonders to be found at the ends of the earth. It is rather something that surprises us from behind, from the hidden and personal part of our being; like that which can sometimes take us off our guard in the pathos of small objects or the blind pieties of the poor. It is rather as if a man had found an inner room in the very heart of his own house, which he had never suspected; and seen a light from within. It is if he found something at the back of his own heart that betrayed him into good. It is not made of what the world would call strong materials; or rather it is made of materials whose strength is in that winged levity with which they brush and pass. It is all that is in us but a brief tenderness that there made eternal; all that means no more than a momentary softening that is in some strange fashion become strengthening and a repose; it is the broken speech and the lost word that are made positive and suspended unbroken; as the strange kings fade into a far country and the mountains resound no more with the feet of the shepherds; and only the night and the cavern lie in fold upon fold over some-thing more human than humanity.

Nollaig shona daoibh go léir!


  1. Ironic that the newscaster was Vere Wynne-Jones, a very prominent Freemason.

  2. Yes. He died a few years back - you can google him and get the lowdown. I recall he even did a docu on the Freemasons for RTE.

    1. Interesting, but I may have to delete your comments...I don't want to get the traddies going.

      (That's a joke, I hasten to add. My readership seems mostly traddie!)