Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

“A sad tale’s best for winter.”

Saturday, December 26th, 2020

Shakespeare’s late romance, The Winter’s Tale, is full of contrivances and plot holes, including perhaps the most famous stage direction in history, “Exit, pursued by a bear,” yet it remains among my favorites. The title itself is a mystery. The only plausible reference in the text is young Mamillius’s offhand comment, “A sad tale’s best for winter,” even though the play ends in an unexpected reconciliation. So it is that I associate the play with Christmas, as so much of the Christmas story, as in the stories of our lives, finds joy in sad and difficult terrain: long, hard journeys; no room at the inn; Herod’s jealous rage; the flight to Egypt.

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Prince of Peace

Friday, December 25th, 2020

Octavian Augustus, first emperor of Rome, was known by many titles, including Divi Filius (Son of God), and Princeps Pacis (Prince of Peace). An inscription in Asia Minor states that Augustus’s birth “… has been for the whole world the beginning of the gospel (εύαγγέλιον) concerning him.” How strange, then, to use the same names for a contemporaneous but obscure Palestinian Jew, whose understanding of peace, politics, and power was so radically different. How strange to have so long diluted the scandal of the gospel (good news) with accommodations to an Augustan vision of a peace built on the use or threat of lethal violence. Here’s a Christmas poem calling attention to that contrast in a conscious act against forgetting.

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Christmas Eve

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019

Cum ortus fúerit sol de cælo,
vidébitis Regem regum
procedéntem a Patre,
tamquam sponsum de thálamo suo.
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O Emmanuel

Monday, December 23rd, 2019


O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.
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O King of Nations

Sunday, December 22nd, 2019

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.
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O Morning Star

Saturday, December 21st, 2019

O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.
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O Key of David

Friday, December 20th, 2019

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
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O Root of Jesse

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
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O Adonai

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019


O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento
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O Wisdom

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

The “O Antiphons” begin:

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
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