Thursday, December 27, 2007

This sketch of the human story began in a cave; the cave which popular science associates with the cave-man and in which practical discovery has really found archaic drawings of animals. The second half of human history, which was like a new creation of the world, also begins in a cave. There is even a shadow of such a fancy in the fact that animals were again present; for it was a cave used as a stable by the mountaineers of the uplands about Bethlehem; […] It was here that a homeless couple had crept underground with the cattle when the doors of the crowded caravanserai had been shut in their faces; and it was here beneath the very feet of the passersby, in a cellar under the very floor of the world, that Jesus Christ was born. But in that second creation there was indeed something symbolical in the roots of the primeval rock or the horns of the prehistoric herd. God also was a Cave-Man, and had also traced strange shapes of creatures, curiously colored upon the wall of the world; but the pictures that he made had come to life.

--G. K. Chesterton

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bethlehem is emphatically a place where extremes meet.

[…] If the world wanted what is called a non-controversial aspect of Christianity, it would probably select Christmas. Yet it is obviously bound up with what is supposed to be a controversial aspect […]; the respect paid to the Blessed Virgin. […] You cannot chip away the statue of a mother from all round that of a new-born child. You cannot suspend the new-born child in mid-air; indeed you cannot really have a statue of a new-born child at all. Similarly, you cannot suspend the idea of a new-born child in the void or think of him without thinking of his mother. You cannot visit the child without visiting the mother; you cannot in common human life approach the child except through the mother. […] We must either leave Christ out of Christmas, or Christmas out of Christ, or we must admit, if only as we admit it in an old picture, that those holy heads are too near together for the haloes not to mingle and cross.

--G. K. Chesterton

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I am unable to fear a God who makes himself so little for me ... I love him! ... for he is all love and mercy.

--St. Therese of Lisieux

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas 2007

Yes, [this history] really did happen. Jesus is no myth. He is a man of flesh and blood and He stands as a fully real part of history. We can go the the very places where He himself went. We can hear His words through His witnesses. He died and He is risen... the myths had waited for Him, because in Him what they long for came to pass.

-Benedict XVI

Christianity is not born as the fruit of our culture or as the discovery of our intelligence... it reveals itself in facts events, which constitute a new reality in the world, a living reality; in movement. Christian reality is God's mystery that has entered the world as a human history.

-Luigi Giussani

Schall on Christmas

Fr. James V. Schall, SJ, is one of my favorite essayists as well as a great priest. Over the years he has written essays just for this time of year. Spend some time with:

In his wonderful book Idylls and Rambles, sub-titled "Lighter Christian Essays," Schall explains the notion of "Christmas reading" and suggests we begin with:
  • Belloc's The Four Men
  • E.F. Schumacher's A Guide for the Perplexed
  • Dorothy Sayers's The Nine Tailors and The Man Born to Be King
  • Anything by P. G. Wodehouse, but especially Right Ho, Jeeves and Leave It to Psmith
  • Josef Pieper's Enthusiasm and the Divine Madness
  • Mad Magazine
  • G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy

There is a difference between a "Christmas Shopping Guide" and a "Short List of What to Read for Christmas." It is said that one can "recommend" his own books! What else? My memory is hazy, but Scott Walter once told me that Belloc, in his old age, was supposed to have read nothing but "Wodehouse, the Diary of a Nobody, and his own works."Of my own works, I have a few of late that I am glad are out, to wit: On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs, Sum Total of Human Happiness, and The Order of Things.

My friend Jim Campbell recently asked me if I wanted anything from London. I said, "Find me a copy of Belloc's
Towns of Destiny," a 1927 book. And he found a very handsome edition. It is almost painfully beautiful. I think that Christmas reading and giving of books should not be in the ordinary line of what are called "best-sellers." Rarely are best sellers worth too much effort.

Most of the world's wisdom is found in things that did not currently sell very well. There are exceptions. This year is the 100th anniversary of the publication of Chesterton's
Orthodoxy. It is the greatest book of the last hundred years. No one should be without a copy. No one will read it and not be delighted.

I read Peter Kreeft's
The Philosophy of Jesus, which I much enjoyed.

The pope's
Jesus of Nazareth is something of an event.

I am still amused, from several years ago, at having read, while at my brother's for Christmas, Dostoevsky's
The Idiot. Needless to say, my brother had great fun explaining to his friends that his brother spent Christmas reading a book called The Idiot. But of course, it is a great book.

Finally, I had mentioned in an interview that I had somehow lost my copy of Robert Short's
The Gospel According to Peanuts. When one arrived unexpectedly in the mail from a generous reader, I was most pleased. This book is well worth reading at Christmas. It contains no Christmas sequences, but it does have two Great Pumpkin ones. It's the Great Pumpkin is, after all, a Christmas story. Linus insists on believing that the Great Pumpkin will come no matter what. He is not exactly a fideist. But one suspects that if we do not believe it will come, we will likely never see it when it does.

There is a Santa Claus!

"Yes, Aquinas, There Is a Santa Claus." A very fun read, especially if you are familiar with St. Thomas.