Because the beginning shall remind us of the end

20161224_114530And so we are blessed to have arrived at another Christmas Eve which, unusually, this year coincides with the beginning of Hanukkah. We have all out lights ready, inside and out.  Light of the most profound kind will be everywhere, and increasing gradually, too, as the days lengthen and the runs we currently undertake in pitch dark become illuminated by gorgeous dawns again. This week the sun made its move towards the northern hemisphere, the very day after we lost dear Pupkin and we thought  – as the day’s ration of light began to be more generous – of the symbolic significance of St John the Forerunner, especially at this time of Christ’s birth, which the Western Church marks six months after his cousin’s. Increase and decrease: all one continuum, of which we must never tire and within which we must find our comings and goings, our ups and downs. As someone famous reminds us in his poem, we must cultivate our faith, as well as the spirit and meaning of this time of year.

There are several attitudes towards Christmas,
Some of which we may disregard:
The social, the torpid, the patently commercial,
The rowdy (the pubs being open till midnight),
And the childish – which is not that of the child
For whom the candle is a star, and the gilded angel
Spreading its wings at the summit of the tree
Is not only a decoration, but an angel.
The child wonders at the Christmas Tree:
Let him continue in the spirit of wonder
At the Feast as an event not accepted as a pretext;
So that the glittering rapture, the amazement
Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree,
So that the surprises, delight in new possessions
(Each one with its peculiar and exciting smell),
The expectation of the goose or turkey
And the expected awe on its appearance,
So that the reverence and the gaiety
May not be forgotten in later experience,
In the bored habituation, the fatigue, the tedium,
The awareness of death, the consciousness of failure,
Or the piety of the convert
Which may be tainted with a self-conceit
Displeasing to God and disrespectful to the children
(And here I remember also with gratitude
St. Lucy, her carol, and her crown of fire):
So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas
(By “eightieth” meaning whichever is the last)
The accumulated memories of annual emotion
May be concentrated into a great joy
Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion
When fear came upon every soul:
Because the beginning shall remind us of the end
And the first coming of the second coming.

T S Eliot, ‘The Cultivation of Christmas Trees’

 

 

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