Friday, December 19, 2008

Advent 2008 - December 19 - O Root of Jesse

Come O Radix Jesse!

December 19: Six more days: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)

O radix Iesse,
qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, iam noli tardare.

(translation from Fr. Britt)

O Root of Jesse, who standest as the ensign of the people, before whom kings shall not open their lips; to whom the Gentiles shall pray: COME and deliver us, tarry now no more.

(another version)

O Flower of Jesse's stem,
you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

Today I will consider two stories, neither of which is strictly about Christmas, but each of which has a famous Christmas scene.

As a computer scientist, I have seen "Tron" and "Electric Dreams" and enjoyed them very much, but they are both fairy tales. "Desk Set" might be such a story also, but there are parts of it which are lots more real than either of those others. I am not concerned today with the Tracey/Hepburn hilarity, or the delights of the Reference Department, or of the invasion of EMORAC. (Boop-boop-be-DOOP to you too.) But there is a wonderful scene of their office Christmas party, which reminds me of the good parties I have been to at work, and also of the larger and Chestertonian truths we expect to see in such things. For one, there is the water-cooler with the jug of - something. Was it wine or punch? It doesn't matter. But really - shades of Humphrey Pump and the Flying Inn! Talk about our Lord converting six gigantic water jugs into wine! Wow. That's a party! And the free, friendly open doors - "Let's go over to Legal and see how their party is..." borrowing a piano labelled "Do Not Remove From Studio Two" (or whatever) and singing silly songs (not just carols - there's a place for silliness). People giving each other champagne - and bongo drums - or big stuffed rabbits containing (yes!) bottles of champagne. (Dickens and Chesterton would completely understand!) Gifts for co-workers. A Christmas Tree - in a reference library for a television station! (Why does that sound so familiar?)

Then (to vary the metaphor) we have the stupendous book The Miracle of the Bells, which I have no time to do justice today. There is a movie version too, which falls far short of the power of the book - but even the movie version contains the critical scene - the late Christmas Eve dinner of Bill "White Spats" Dunnigan and the mysterious Olga Treskovna in a small midwest town, all closed up for Christmas - except for Ming Gow's Chinese restaurant. The book gives the grand menu they ate, which no real restaurant could ever match, for it was designed and cooked and served not according to the menu, but from the heart of Ming Gow. From the rising to the setting of the sun [Mal 1:11] the Wise Men came, from the East and from the West... And the mystery of this dinner - though it was just Olga and Bill, a man and a woman - was about the much larger kind of love which is not the simple form - dare I say not the natural form of love? I do not mean something evil - no, I mean something transcendently good. It was not natural love, because it was supernatural love. It was a chance encounter for the hero and the heroine, who were to spend so little time together... yes, like the famous "King and I" the story contains a death, but unlike that musical, "Miracle" is centered on the death, indeed, is much more about what happens after that death than about anything else... all the good that comes about by divine power but conditioned by an unfailing trust of a mere human, by a weak, but hopeful man...

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?


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