Friday, December 24, 2010

Old Christmas

A man might then behold
At Christmas, in each hall
Good fires to curb the cold,
And meat for great and small.
The neighbours were friendly bidden,
And all had welcome true,
The poor from the gates were not chidden,
When this old cap was new.

--Old Song

In Washington Irving’s book Old Christmas, he gives us a beautiful description of Christmas at an old English manor house, where he was a guest. The lord of the manor is an advocate of all the “old rural games and holiday observances.” And the parson shares the squire’s passion for the “good old Christmas customs.”
“The parson gave us a most erudite sermon on the rites and ceremonies of Christmas, and the propriety of observing it not merely as a day of thanksgiving, but of rejoicing; supporting the correctness of his opinions by the earliest usages of the Church, and enforcing them by the authorities of Theophilus of Cesarea, St. Cyprian, St. Chrysostom, St. Augustine, and a cloud more of Saints and Fathers, from whom he made copious quotations. I was a little at a loss to perceive the necessity of such a mighty array of forces to maintain a point which no one present seemed inclined to dispute; but I soon found that the good man had a legion of ideal adversaries to contend with; having, in the course of his researches on the subject of Christmas, got completely embroiled in the sectarian controversies of the Revolution, when the Puritans made such a fierce assault upon the ceremonies of the Church, and poor old Christmas was driven out of the land by proclamation of Parliament. The worthy parson lived but with times past, and knew but a little of the present.”
Particularly moving was Irving’s description of family prayers on Christmas day. The squire was moved to tears as he sang the following stanza from a church hymn:
"'Tis thou that crown'st my glittering hearth
With guiltlesse mirth,
And giv'st me wassaile bowles to drink,
Spiced to the brink:
Lord, 'tis Thy plenty-dropping hand,
That soiles my land;
And giv'st me for my bushell sowne,
Twice ten for one."
The squire’s Christianity is bred-in-the-bone, surely the kind of Christianity our Lord meant us to have.

Today we are told by the liberals that Christianity is false and the Europeans who practiced it were evil. And the halfway-house Christians tell us Christianity is true but the antique Europeans who practiced it were unenlightened bigots incapable of comprehending the true Christianity. The liberal and the halfway-house Christian are deceivers and liars. There is one Lord, one Holy Child born in a manger in Bethlehem. And His pure and holy image comes to us through a European window to the Divine. There is no need to create a new Christianity; the ancient Christianity, the type of Christianity found in the old English squire’s house at Christmas time is the true Christianity.
Dark and dull night, flie hence away,
And give the honour to this day
That Sees December turn'd to May.
. . . . . . . .
Why does the chilling winter's morne
Smile like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like to a meade new-shorne,
Thus on the sudden?—Come and see
The cause why things thus fragrant be.


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