O magnum mysterium, et admirabile sacramentum, ut animalia viderent Dominum natum, jacentem in praesepio! O great mystery, and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the new-born Lord, lying in a manger!
This sacred text, oft set to music in a magical and very reflective way, gets to the heart of the miracle of this, the darkest time of the year and the place of us small creatures at its very core. In our hedgerows and fens, on the marshland and in the shallows, we creatures reach out before dawn, and with unspeaking witness cherish the returning light, even as the wind thunders about us. Uncle Jonny, antlers akimbo, warms our cockles once again as we remember his Christmas worthiness. Where the humans cannot enter, there we shall be found: innocent, loving, curious, dependable, capable of joy.
Some folk will never get it; some will never reach out to touch our warm, soft ears. But, like Chesterton’s donkey, and Eliot’s camels, we are sometimes given another’s voice to say the things we’ve understood and, at quiet times like this, keep faith with changing fortune while, in the most important way of all, we always keep our counsel. Outside, where snowdrops are peeping up, and the darkling thrush is carolling, many folk are suffering again as the wintry weather devastates their days and pulverizes their plans. Simpler to wait, in the cold, dark, longest night of all, and feel the fur and feather keeping the secret close as we huddle and gaze. Whatever it is, it is here with us.