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When I think of Christmas I think of T.S. Eliot’s wonderful poem, the Journey of the Magi. The whole thing is a work of art and reads aloud very well. One element especially stays with me: how Eliot interwove his description of the wise men’s rocky road to Bethlehem with intimations of Calvary. So, after the questers make it over an icy mountain pass, the narrator describes greener, warm valleys below:

With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,

And three trees on the low sky,

And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,

Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,

Later, Eliot hammers home the message that Christmas is not “happy-slappy,” as my pastor likes to say. It is, finally, about Easter, which is to say, it is about a painful death and birth. But here is Eliot’s narrator: 

All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

I get this same point when I go to regular noonday Masses, which, occasionally, turn out to be funerals. Such an event brings together two very different groups: we Massgoers doing our routine thing, who are suddenly surprised to be reminded of our own mortality; and the funeral attenders. They come to “pay their respects,” also routinely, and are just as surprised to find themselves surrounded by believers, in the middle of a celebration of the Holy Eucharist. No eulogies, no testimonies to the dearly departed’s contributions to society, but rather humbling incorporation of his life into the regular flow of faith, worship, life and death in Christ Jesus, that has been going on since the first Christmas.

Editor's Note: As has been our custom for over a decade, LifeSiteNews is again this year publishing Christmas reflections by our staff. For a full listing of this year's reflections, click here.