Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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The feeling for Christmas varies from mere delight in the Christ Child as a representative symbol on which to lavish affection, as a child delights in a doll, to the mystical philosophy of Eckhart, in whose Christmas sermons the Nativity is viewed as a type of the Birth of God in the depths of man's being. Yet even the least spiritual forms of the cult of the Child are seldom without some hint of the supersensual, the Infinite, and even in Eckhart there is a love of concrete symbolism. Christmas stands peculiarly for the sacramental principle that the outward and visible is a sign and shadow of the inward and spiritual. It means the seeing of common, earthly things shot through by the glory of the Infinite. " Its note," as has been said of a stage of the mystic consciousness, the Illuminative Way, " is sacramental not ascetic. It entails . . . the discovery of the Perfect One ablaze in the Many, not the forsaking of the Many in order to find the One ... an ineffable radiance, a beauty and a reality never before suspected, are perceived by a sort of clairvoyance shining in the meanest things."1 Christmas is the festival of the Divine Immanence, and it is natural that it should have been beloved by the saint and mystic whose life was the supreme manifestation of the Via Illuminativa> Francis of Assisi.
Christmas is the most human and lovable of the Church's feasts. Easter and Ascensiontide speak of the rising and exaltation of a glorious being, clothed in a spiritual body refined beyond all comparison with our natural flesh ; Whitsuntide tells of the coming of a mysterious, intangible Powerólike the wind, we cannot tell whence It cometh and whither It goeth ; Trinity offers for contemplation an ineffable paradox of Pure Being. But the God of Christmas is no ethereal form, no mere spiritual essence, but a very human child, feeling the cold and the roughness of the straw, needing to be warmed and fed and cherished. Christmas is the festival of the natural body, of this world ; it means the consecration of the ordinary things of life, affection and comradeship, eating and drinking and merry≠making ; and in some degree the memory of the Incarnation has been able to blend with the pagan joyance of the New Year.
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