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Posts Tagged "Cardinal Murphy O’Connor":

A Christmas Miscellany


And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory

  (John 1:14 )

Lay Anglicana would like to offer its readers a little prose-and-poetry Christmas stocking which we hope you might enjoy in the remaining part of Advent and over the twelve days of Christmas. Thank-you for all your support and encouragement over the last year. I hope you will all know some of the pieces, and none of you will know them all!


First of all, a description of the celebration of Christmas which is a trap for the unwary:

Christmas Presents

by Anon

Every year Grandma gets a tin of talcum powder.
She always says, ‘Ah my favourite!’
Even before she opens the wrapping
Grandpa always says, ‘Well, I know what’s in here.
Its two pairs of socks. Just what I wanted!’
As for Mum and Dad, they just sat there and said,
‘We’ve given each other a joint present this year
It’s a digital clock radio for our bedroom.’
Do you know, they didn’t even bother to wrap it up!
At the end, when everything had been given out,
Mum said, ‘We mustn’t forget the gift-vouchers from Debbie and Jim.
We sent them a cheque for the same amount. We always do.’
I call that a bit un-i-Magi-native, don’t you?
Maybe, when you come to think about it,
Grown-ups need Father Christmas far more than children do.


 How the Grinch stole Christmas

by Dr. Seuss

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,

stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?

It came without ribbons. It came without tags.

It came without packages, boxes or bags.

And he puzzled and puzzled ‘till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store?

What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?




‘A little bit more’?  U.A. Fanthorpe has the answer for us all in ‘B C : A D’:

This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future’s
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.
This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.
This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.
And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.    

In the last few days there has been much discussion as to whether Britain is still a Christian country. Here is an editorial in ‘Country Life’ dated 13 December 2007 which seems worth re-reading:

Britain’s roots are deeply embedded in Christianity

‘Deck the Halls’. ‘Jingle Bells’. ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’. Up and down the country, carollers are singing the familiar seasonal refrains. But hark! What are those faint notes we hear? ‘O Come all ye Faithful’? ‘Away in a Manger’? Sssshhhhh. Who would be caught acknowledging the Christian narrative that underpins this holiday? For ‘tis the season to be jolly and merry, but not Christian. The symbols and figures of the Nativity have given way to Santa and his little helpers. Advent calendars boast chocolates and biscuits, but finding a Magus or three on the High Street is near-impossible. Christ has been dropped from Christmas….Secularists are bent on re-writing the country’s history, in order to quash any claim that Britain’s roots are deeply embedded in Christianity. Yet they need only walk through the countryside, with its stone churches, or in town, where the cathedral cloister is still the quiet heart of the bustling landscape, to see how flimsy their theory is. They’ll find Christianity in texts from the Venerable Bede to Shakespeare; when they listen to Handel’s Messiah or Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius; when they read of the charitable works inspired by Wilberforce and Rowntree’s faith. For two millennia, Christianity has inspired what’s best about this country. For two millennia, it has been the custodian of our cultural life. Surely, it can continue to be the custodian of the all-too brief forthcoming holiday of Christmas?



The origin of the crib scene

by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor

Saint Francis made his mark not only in Assisi but also throughout Umbria and beyond. The village of Greccio, about ten miles northwest of Rieti, is a particularly significant Franciscan site, because what happened there in 1223 has a great deal to do with the images we have of the birth of Jesus at the first Christmas. According to one of Francis’s earliest biographers, Friar Thomas of Celano, about two weeks before Christmas Francis asked his dear friend Giovanni from Greccio to set up a scene of the birth of Christ in a manger. He told Giovanni it would be good and edifying ‘to have set before our bodily eyes in some way the inconveniences of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, how, with an ox and an ass standing by, he lay upon the hay where he had been placed.’

Giovanni was enthralled by the poetic vision Francis had described. Many people set to work and Francis was delighted with what they achieved, because now he had a way of showing people how small, poor and humble God had appeared on that first Christmas night in Bethlehem. It snowed on Christmas Eve, which meant the valley was unusually silent. Franciscan brothers from nearby communities came to Greccio, as did many of the country people; the candles and torches they brought really brightened the ‘night that has lighted up all the days and years with its gleaming star’. Francis himself was the deacon for the midnight Mass; the way he read the Gospel and preached about Christ’s birth in Bethlehem evidently had a remarkable effect on many of those who heard him.

He wanted to show people that the crib scene is not just about shepherds and wise men from the East, but also about a child born among the cobwebs and hay, surrounded by the heavy breath of animals. And he did this with the first ‘live crib’, in which the population of a rural valley in Italy brought the Gospel to life. There is no mention of an ox or an ass in any of the Gospels. The only animals mentioned are the sheep the shepherds tended in the fields, and none of the Gospels says that the shepherds brought their sheep with them. What Francis and his friend the nobleman Giovanni of Greccio staged on Christmas Eve in 1223 has been portrayed ever since in paintings and carvings, on calendars and Christmas cards, even in the carols we sing.

The Spectator, 15-29 December 2007



Let us put up a Christmas tree in our hearts

Anon, taken from a Christmas card

This advent, let us put up a Christmas tree in our hearts and, instead of hanging presents, let us put instead the names of all our friends. Our close friends, and the not so close. The old friends, the new friends. Those that we see every day and those that we rarely see. The ones we always remember and the ones we sometimes forget. The friends of difficult times and the ones of happy times. Friends who, without meaning to, we have hurt – as well as those who, without meaning to, have hurt us. Those that owe us little and those to whom we owe much. All those that have passed through our lives, no matter how fleetingly. A tree with very deep roots and very long and strong branches, so that their names may never be plucked from our hearts.


And is it true…?

‘Christmas’, by John Betjeman

The bells of waiting Advent ring,

The Tortoise stove is lit again…

The holly in the windy hedge

And round the Manor House the yew

Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,

The altar, font and arch and pew,

So that villagers can say

‘The Church looks nice’ on Christmas Day…

Loving fingers tying strings

Around those tissued fripperies,

The sweet and silly Christmas things,

Bath salts and inexpensive scent

And hideous tie so kindly meant…


And is it true?

For if it is

No love that in a family dwells,

no carolling in frosty air,

nor all the steeple shaking bells

can with this single truth compare –

that God was man in Palestine
and lives today in Bread and Wine.

The Grace:

May Christ the sun of righteousness shine upon us, scatter the darkness from before our path, and make us ready to meet him when he comes in glory; and may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.


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The illustration is from the Metropolitan Museum Neapolitan Baroque nativity scene.

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