Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Advent 2008 - December 17 - O Wisdom

Today, sa you know, begins the "Greater Feria" - the grand countdown to Christmas!
Back in 2005, I posted some comments about these, which I shall not repeat now.
But I will give the text, and then something else. Ah, but what else?

I had to think a little about what I might write for you this year, since my food thing is just not quite cooked sufficiently, and now I am almost out of time anyway.

So I thought I might give just a few thoughts on several famous Christmas stories. I only need seven - or eight. That ought to be possible.

Come, O Wisdom!

December 17: Eight more days: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)

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

(translation from Fr. Britt)

O Wisdom, that proceedest from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end mightily, and sweetly disposing all things, COME and teach us the way of prudence.

(another version)

Wisdom, O holy Word of God,
you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care.
Come and show your people the way to salvation.

Today, let's look at the Grinch. The one who stole Christmas. I mean the cartoon, not the book, not the "human-based" movie.

There are lots of interesting things about the cartoon. The first is what my mother always said was "Who-Latin". I don't know what they really said, and I don't want to be told what the printed lyrics were. To me they were singing the Gloria, whcih of course was in Who-Latin. It sure sounds like they say: La-WHO-damus = the Who form of laudamus = "we praise". This is one of the Five Great Verbs of the Gloria, about which I hope to write one day.

The second is the strange anatomical flaw in the Grinch. His heart was "two sizes too small". Yes. In the end (as St. Paul tells us) it is charity that will last, and it is the driving power which enables us to do God's will. If one's heart is too small, there is no room for God or neighbor - actually, the only love most people think they have in such cases is love-of-self. But really that's not there either. It is this required and triune love which explains the reason for his heart to grow three sizes when he converts. (There is also the strange allusion to the strength he gains at that moment - the strength of "ten grinches plus two" - 12 for the twelve days, but also for the 12 Apostles and 12 tribes of Israel?)

The third is the very Chestertonian paradox of the Grinch as Santa-Who-Steals. I cannot go into this at length, since it would spoil an excellent puzzle, but you need to read (or re-read) GKC's Manalive in order to understand.

The fourth is the very Chestertonian chaos of the Who Christmas. They decorate everything - every blessed window and every blessed door, ceilings and floors and Uncles and Aunts (Gilberts and Franceses) and with the most bizarre and grand and unique and not-used-for-anything-else kind of things. Bissledinks and Wugs. Pan-phunas. Pang-tookas. Who-foo-fluff. Koo-goo-who bricks. No one knows what those things are, but they do. And that is how we ought to decorate!

(Hey! Why not schedule some Who-Christmas decoration time and make some of your own? It's as Chestertonian as Gype.)

Then there is the music - the noise, noise, noise, noise - and the most WONDERFUL musical instruments - gar-dinkas, trum-tookas and slew-slonkas... some played by whole bands of Whos... Wow. Can you say polyphony, Mr. Geisel? (hee hee!) Chestertonians remember how GKC delighted in this:
I remember a debate in which I had praised militant music in ritual, and some one asked me if I could imagine Christ walking down the street before a brass band. I said I could imagine it with the greatest ease; for Christ definitely approved a natural noisiness at a great moment. When the street children shouted too loud, certain priggish disciples did begin to rebuke them in the name of good taste. He said: "If these were silent the very stones would cry out." [GKC "The Tower" in Tremendous Trifles quoting Luke 19:40]
A natural noisiness at a great moment - Indeed!

Then there was a grand dinner... oh my. The banquet at the End of the World. Blessed are those WHO are called to the wedding-supper of the Lamb! [Apo/Rev 19:9] With seven servants, like the Russian nesting dolls which I used to teach recursion at college - yes, seven, just to serve a single perfect strawberry to a little girl-Who. Wonderful. So heavenly.

Ah... there are many other hints and glimpses, more than I can now recall - the whole Grinchy thing is so Chestertonian in so many ways.

Finally, the mystical and most O-antiphonic scene when "at a quarter of dawn... he paused and the Grinch put a hand to his ear"... (Perhaps I ought to have saved this for December 21!) It passes very quickly, but the dark night sky gives way to rose and yellow and white light as the Whos begin their Morning Canticle of Praise (La-Who-damus Te!) - and He who is Light from Light [Nicene Creed; cf Jn 1:4 and 8:12] is even seen in a mystic stellar blaze, much as how the Wise Men saw Him beckoning from afar...

The Whos began to sing - like true Christians, because of the Day of Jesus' Birth, not for any other reason at all. Because He is the Gift (and sends us the Gift) which cannot ever be taken away (that's also in St. Paul). The most we can do is throw it away, but once we have it, no one can take it from us. Indeed, no Grinch, no Communist, no Pagan, no Enemy has been able - or will be able - to steal Christmas - because we have THEE, o Lord. O Wisdom, help us, and enlighten us that we may praise Thee, even as the Whos down in Who-ville!

Welcome, Wisdom, bring Thy light.
Welcome in earth's cold dark night.
Welcome Wisdom, while we stand,
Heart to heart and hand in hand. [Cf Acts 4:32]

PS. I must add that this year I am feeling particularly Grinch, since I am seeing my 53rd Christmas. "Why for fifty-three years I've put up with it now..."

But please God I am the post-dawn Grinch, and not the other one... For I wish to eat some of their mystical Roast Beast which never diminishes. (That is right out of Aquinas, you know.)


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