Is Christmas a memory? Is Christmas more than a memory? Is Christmas only a memory? Is that what the greeting Happy Holidays implies?
Pearl Harbor: Remember Pearl Harbor! Is Pearl Harbor only a memory? Is it something more than a memory?
Usually, a memory rests on some event of the past. Especially if it’s a long-lasting memory. Perhaps a shorter term memory is liable to be explained away by offering an alternate explanation for its endurance. But when it extends back over a long time, and is fostered within a large group of people, it’s difficult to explain it away. This is certainly the case with Christmas. It is hard to maintain that the many traditions and stories associated with the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem of Judea 2000 years ago lack any foundation in history. Especially when this memory is found embedded in the memories of so many people scattered across the face of the earth.
The influence of this memory has made its way into so much of the music that resounds at this time of the year, coinciding with the shortest day of the year, just come and gone, and when the introduction of a new season, the winter-time, is freshly underway. The lyrics of so many current musical pieces are replete with Christmas themes centering around mother and Child, angels and shepherds, wise men from the east and animals. And costuming, featuring the colors of red and white, dominates the dress and apparel of people across the board.
All of this richness of color and sound and verse and practices and traditions add up to the impact of an historic event entering into the fabric of human life, which is comparable to the scientific forays into the history of our earth suggesting the lasting effect upon this home of ours of some huge visitor from outer space, long ago, crashing upon the crust of our earth-home, leaving its indelible marks, embedding itself into the fabric of our planet emphatically, to the point of shaping our earth-home, with its mountains and canyons, its oceans, lakes and rivers, possibly its elliptical orbit around the sun and its cycle of night and day that has affected the way we calculate the passage of time.
The history of these two events, the birth of the Son of God among us which has refashioned our sense of before and after, so as to constitute a kind of rebirth and renewal among us, and the readjustment of the equilibrium of planet earth following the impact of this encounter with a foreign body from outer space, constitute a combination of shock and awe from which we have never recovered. One occurred within the parameters of human memory; the other antedated it. But, in either case, basic adjustments took place to accommodate the powerful repercussions each have had on us, from which we will never recover.
One took place within the parameters of human history; the other antedated it. So we have a memory of the one, but not of the other. But there is no reason on our part to shed or diminish the eventfulness of either. We can well imagine the dimensions of the sound that emanated from the clash of two gigantic bodies of astral or planetary materials, and the sound-waves that must have inundated this universe over the ages. But, at the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ, there was also a heavenly sound emanating from the choir of angels singing their hymn of Glory to God. And, whereas that first sound has long since ceased to resound throughout the universe, the angelic hymns have never faded away, but continue to interweave our indelible memories that constitute as much of the Christmas event as their visual counterparts so familiar to us and that together constitute the memory of this significant day. And a celestial body has also assumed prominence in our memory of the first Christmas, assuming the guise of that bright star serving to guide wise men from the east, to the place where the infant was to be found. This star was not bent on an ominous intrusion into the pathway of mother earth, but provided a helpful outreach from outer space along the pathway of the visitors from the east leading them into a friendly encounter with the family at the center of the Bethlehem event, and to the One through Whom all things were made including the lowly space that was His first home.
Christmas is a memory of an event involving the encounter of an extra-terrestrial body with our planet earth, contributing a happy dimension to what we celebrate at Christmas time. It’s a memory we cannot forget. While there are other encounters among heavenly bodies, including mother earth, of which we may have no memory despite their shaping our history, in a very remote way, it is the conjunction of heaven and earth on Christmas Day that persists as a powerful memory shaping our history, whose details we can recall and remember. For that reason the greeting MERRY CHRISTMAS bears much more significance to it than our current HAPPY HOLIDAYS.
We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.