I had an unfinished little Christmas meditation left in my draft page. Christmas is passed, and just started the new year. So, the best I can do is to wish that something of the Christmas spirit is going to endure in the new year, and to ask, to resume that meditation, what that spirit is.
No much good to say about the past year. The financial crisis keeps on plaguing us, and an incompetent man sits in the White House, incapable of promoting in people that hope on which he based the campaign that led to his election (rarely the promises of the electoral campaign have been more belied by the reality of the person and of his administration: he presented himself as post partisan, and acted in a way that more partisan could hardly be; he presented himself as post racial, and with him racial tensions came back to the fore in America). Not many reasons of hope seem to be looming at the horizon. In this moment of lack of American leadership, exploded the so called “Arab spring”: the revolt against autocrats that appeared as a promise for democracy in Arab countries, but out of which are emerging to power the only organized groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, which only promise an increase of the tension between the Islamic world and the rest of us. Not to speak of Iran.
I won’t keep on going listing the evils that threaten our world, East and West so called. As far as the Western side of the world I’d number in the first place the failure of confidence: word that includes the root fid of fides, faith and trust together.
At the end of the Christmas and New Year holidays there is for the Catholic tradition the Epiphany: the manifestation of what happened at Christmas, when the Magi hail in a baby the “new born king”, which marks the turning into a new year.
Here you have the Christmas spirit: it’s a spirit of hope, the hope coming from a birth. In Italian it is called Natale, in Spanish, Natividad: a birthday, that we celebrate.
What is it then that we do celebrate when we remember somebody’s birthday, and may be throw a party for him or her? Pretty simple: the joy that he or she brought into our life.
A beautiful Hollywood movie of 1946 by Frank Capra, It’s a wonderful life, best illustrate this sense of the celebration represented by Christmas. Here is the story: on Christmas Eve a man meditates suicide, because of the bankrupt that threatens his life work, which makes him think that better were not to be born; the miraculous intervention of his guardian angel makes him see how things would have been if he really had not been born: that is, because of all the good that he did, much worse; he asks for his life back, and finds all the friends he made, knowing his difficulties, bringing in thanks more than he needed to be saved from bankrupt. The moral is that the good one does is the difference that makes his being born worthy, for others to celebrate.
The more the good done, the larger the circle of the people celebrating the birth. The good one does, however, doesn’t extent itself only in space, but also in time, and gives therefore to celebration its character of recurrence: the good brought of old to life by someone gives reason to celebrate, with his birth, birth itself as the coming to life.
Should someone find what I just said not clear enough as illustration of the meaning of the Christmas epiphany, he might think of what happens today, when the reasons for celebrating are, if not erased, at least hidden. Birth is surrounded by expectations and recollections of renewal of life which make of it a social, public affair. Stripped, instead, of the expectations and recollections of communal life, it doesn’t remain but a biological event. Uselessly we confer to the newborn inherent rights, these are not enough to make of him a public person: one is and remains private – word coming from the same root of “deprived”, lacking of something essential, that makes him appear to others as a promise of good, and, by seeing himself through others’ eyes, makes him feel his being born a worthy thing.
When the good reaches the whole community, we have the kind of person traditionally called king. But they are telling us that in our democratic society there are no longer kings, only experts, qualified as such by the mainstream culture passed over by universities and media, not to inspire us to the good, but to direct our lives in a way politically correct.
Hence despair and partisanship. Over against which it stands the Christmas spirit of celebration of birth.