Friday, December 26, 2008

Pope Benedict and Ann Rice's Comments on Christmas

Well Christmas is still going on for Catholics and others into the new year via the Liturgical year. I might get upset at the Advent purist that demand that nothing Christmas like happen till the 24th of Dec but I am all for extending Christmas as long as we can!!!

Each year and this year is no exception the regular bah humbug Christmas Christians come out. Oh Christmas is so commercial and oh the traffic and lines etc etc.

First they do have a point. I urge all to Christians to keep the efforts to keep "Christ" in Christmas and Catholics to not only keep the "Christ" in Christmas but keep the Mass as well. Still it is not a vast either/or!!!

I think there is something often going unsaid in all this complaining. That is humans love to complain and moan. Like women comparing pains of childbirth and their newborns having colic it seems that people love to compare Christmas horror stories at family gatherings. It is as certain as death and taxes. OH the Lines, Oh the Commercialism, OH the traffic!!! etc etc.

However I often think this is part of the Christmas ritual as anything else and they look forward to this moaning as anything when they gather with the family.

It seems weird to compare statements of Pope Benedict and Author Ann Rice but they both had valuable insights this holiday season.

The Pope at his last general audience of 2008 said:

"Even non-believers", he said, " perceive something extraordinary and transcendental, something intimate that touches our hearts in this yearly Christian event. It is the festivity that sings of the gift of life. The birth of a child should always be a joyful occurrence"."Christmas is the encounter with a new-born baby, wailing in a wretched grotto", the Holy Father added. "Contemplating Him in this crèche how can we not think of all the children who still today, in many regions of the world, are born amidst such poverty? How can we not think of those newborns who have been rejected, not welcomed, those who do not survive because of a lack of care and attention? How can we not think of the families who desire the joy of a child and do not have this hope fulfilled?"

"Unfortunately, under the drive of a hedonist consumerism, Christmas runs the risk of losing its spiritual meaning, reduced to a mere commercial occasion to buy and exchange gifts. Actually, however, the difficulties, uncertainty, and the economic crisis that many families are living in these months, and which affects all humanity, can truly serve as a stimulus for rediscovering the warmth of the simplicity, friendship, and solidarity that are the typical values of Christmas. Stripped of its materialist and consumerist trappings, Christmas can become the opportunity to welcome, as a personal gift, the message of hope that emanates from the mystery of Christ's birth"."Nevertheless, all of this does not suffice to capture the value of this celebration we are preparing for in all its fullness. We know that it celebrates the central event of history: the Incarnation of the Divine Word for the redemption of humanity. ... 'Thus the recurring annual cycle of the mystery of our salvation is renewed that, promised at the beginning and given to the end of time, is destined to last without end'".

I think the Pope is very right here and I think he recognizes the Sacred space for non believers and the danger of it being consumed totally by consumer rampage.

However as I was reading this I was also reading Ann Rice's great new book Called out of Darkness- a spiritual confession.

Ann Rice that had a devout Catholic Faith as a child in very Catholic New Orleans, lost it and then found it again has some wonderful insight. Ann Rice, despite writing tons of verbiage in popular novels, was a poor reader as child. She recalls how the visual and sound of the faith around here was much more formative than anything written. In effect while she had a problems a to the written word in one regard she was very tuned into non verbal cues. More than perhaps most of use were. This includes faith

On page 98 of her book she says as to Christmas in her Faith filled Childhood:
"Even Christmas shopping was of this festive and holy time of year. For me, it was a matter of roaming five and dime stores on Canal Street for the simple little presents I could afford. But I well remember the Christmas carols playing in every store I entered, and the gorgeous Christmas windows of the fine stores, Maison Blanche and D. H. Holmes. It seems to me in retrospect that the department stores and the dime stores did an excellent job of extending the `"sacred space" of Christmas in those days. And I sometimes wonder whether for people of no religion, this might have been the only sacred space thy knew. `When people rail now against the "commercial nature of Christmas" I", always conflicted and unable to respond. Because I think those who banish commercialism from the holiday fail to understand how precious and comforting the shop displays and music can be.

She goes on to say:

In my later years, bleak years, without God, there were two films of remarkable importance to me. One was It's a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed; and the other was Scrooge.. Dickens Christmas Carol, starring Alastair Sim. Year after year, I waited anxiously for these films, and sometimes they were the only Christmas films offered on television., and I cannot help but wonder how important they must have been to people everywhere who were trying to regain that deep mystery of Christmas, in a world that no longer perhaps believed in it, or was determined to blot it out. Both films are as popular as ever today. It's a Wonderful life seems to be about American ambivalence to Christmas and the desperate need to reaffirm the values of the season, no matter how bleak and impoverished the holiday season has become.

I think both the Pope and Ann Rice are hitting on something here that should be recalled. I like Rice's comments a lot because I thin she is hitting a real truth that applies to many people. I so agree with Rice that I don't know at times how to respond to people that complain about the commercialism of Christmas.I see their valid point but she puts into words what I have felt at a deep level for some time.

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