*Special Message, followed by Reflection: Please consider contributing today to our Beginning at Home campaign. See below for a video message from Sofia and me, and Click to help us reach our goal, so we can reach more people with LifeCraft! Thank you!* ~ ~
Those who have suffered much—especially in the loss of loved ones—often find that Christmas renews and even intensifies the suffering. The reason for this is plain. Yet, Hilaire Belloc suggests that Christmas rituals done well are precisely what can make our sufferings more bearable, meaningful, and fruitful.
This is a bold claim that gives a powerful new perspective on the importance of how we celebrate Christmas. For those tempted to back-off from traditional rituals because of their painful associations, this suggests precisely the opposite: standing fast in our rituals, though difficult, is a way of renewing and deepening the bond with loved ones.
Not only death (which shakes and rends all that is human in us, creating a monstrous separation and threatening the soul with isolation which destroys)—not only death, but that accompaniment of mortality which is a perpetual series of lesser deaths and is called change, are challenged, chained, and put in their place by unaltered and successive acts of seasonable regard. . .
This description of death, incidentally, is already for me very healing. I appreciate the reminder that even for Christians, in some sense even more so for Christians, death is monstrous. To see this is a first step to dealing with death rightly, as well as to recognizing how significant is the victory over it.
Belloc proceeds to assert that all the deep sufferings of life (he mentions estrangement, misunderstanding between persons, sickness of body and mind, anxiety, honor harassed, and “all the bitterness of living”) can “become part of a large business which may lead to Beatitude.” “For they are all connected in the memory with holy day after holy day, year by year, binding the generations together.”
I find this stunning. Somehow our intentional, persevering observance of the holy season through very concrete rituals—especially at Christmas—highlights, instantiates, and deepens the reality of our shared faith. Of our shared journey. Even now. Perhaps especially now.
This means that no matter where we are in the great story of our life, our celebration of this Christmas is at once an act of solidarity with our past and with our future. All of us are already living in the absence, and so in an altered presence, of deceased loved ones. Most of us will continue to live and experience further loss. This is essential in our life story. And our bold, enduring, and joyful celebration of Christmas is one of the most concrete, powerful expressions and reminders that this living-in-loss is profoundly good.
Loss is real. Were it not real it could not function as the amazing witness and verification of the power of what we believe. This year let us stand boldly in our loss; for it is a sign and even a cause of our gain. Presence, real presence, always has the final word; is the final reality, since once upon a time a Baby was present in a stable.
And we will never stop celebrating this, by our simple traditions year over year—from manger scene to candles, ornaments to carols, gifts to desserts, prayers to games, story-telling to wreathes. Year over year. As preparation and foretaste of endless ages. ~ ~ ~
LIVE READING of Belloc’s essay on Christmas: PLEASE JOIN US, Wednesday Dec 20th at 8:30pm EST! COME ONE AND ALL: ONLINE READING and Discussion. Signup HERE. We’ll send you the short text—though you don’t have to pre-read it. We’ll read it aloud together!
Remember: Sofia has many helps for you to prepare your home and celebrate Christmas at SOFIA’S CORNER. For instance, Sofia’s Advent Calendar Project. CLICK HERE and then scroll down to the bottom of Sofia’s Corner to get your FREE DOWNLOADABLE PDF of this beautiful calendar to color-in! Explanation provided! You will also find downloadable recordings and booklet to help you sing more CHRISTMAS CAROLS this year.
Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. LifeCraft springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.