Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!

The Angel appears to the shepherds, San Isisdoro, Leon, Spain

Et pastores erant in regione eadem vigilantes et custodientes vigilias noctis supra gregem suum et ecce angelus Domini stetit iuxta illos et claritas Dei circumfulsit illos et timuerunt timore magno et dixit illis angelus nolite timere ecce enim evangelizo vobis gaudium magnum quod erit omni populo quia natus est vobis hodie salvator qui est Christus Dominus in civitate David et hoc vobis signum invenietis infantem pannis involutum et positum in praesepio et subito facta est cum angelo multitudo militiae caelestis laudantium Deum et dicentium gloria in altissimis Deo et in terra pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
Luke 2:8-14

Giotto, the Nativity. 1304-1306. Fresco. Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua, Italy.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Meme

Ivory Nativity, Salerno (eleventh century).

I've caught another meme, this time thanks to Jeff. Of course, Guillaume le Fou, who has too much time on his hands now that he has abandoned civilization for Long Island, got to it first and has been terribly clever, though he was not as quick on the draw as Crystal.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot Chocolate says "winter" to me in general, but doesn't connote "Christmas" in particular. I do enjoy egg nog on Christmas Eve, before we go to bed, still dressed up from Midnight Mass. Bourbon and nutmeg are essential ingredients.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? When I was a child, he sat them under the tree. This is actually the first Christmas I shall spend in loco parentis with Filio imperatrix pulcherrima Africae occidentalis, and I understand Santa will be wrapping presents.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Hmm... This year we didn't put up a tree, because we're going to Utah for Christmas. At my house we always went for colors.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? I considered just wearing mistletoe on the top of my head, but since I
mperatrix pulcherrima Africae occidentalis seems willing to kiss me without it, I think I won't go through the bother.

5. When do you put your decorations up? Last year, at the beginning of December. This year I put out some Advent candles and an Advent calendar, but I haven't had time to buy a wreath for the candles and we're about a week behind on opening the wee doors on the Advent calendar. My life is like this. Don't even ask me about my dissertation.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Stuffing. I would support the genetic engineering of a turkey that could hold thirty cubic feet of stuffing, and damn the consequences.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: I remember getting up on Christmas and dying with anticipation. The door to the living room where the presents were would be closed, and I would have to wait for all the houseguests -- my great aunts, my grandparents -- to get up and have their coffee. I, the youngest child, bounced off the walls. Then the door would be opened...

I also remember my grandfather telling me he had awoken at night during Christmas Eve and had seen Leprechauns dancing across the bed. I have no idea what that would have to do with Christmas, but it seemed to add a nice bit of Irishness to the Santa magic, so I was very pleased to hear it.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? You mean that he was at the Council of Nicaea? I think I figured that one out when reading for my PhD orals exams. I already knew about the North Pole, elves, and reindeer, and strangely was not tested on that information by my orals committee.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? No. Be patient.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? As best as possible. I look forward to slowly acquiring a set of meaningful ornaments with my family.

11. Snow? Love it or Dread it? I grew up in Utah and Christmas is sadly lacking when there is no snow. I even like snow in New York -- for the first couple of days, until it turns every color except white.

I remember one Christmas there was a heavy snowfall and Santa had brought cross-country skis to my father and brother. My brother and I put them on and skied around the neighborhood under the moonlight quiet and the softly falling snow.

12. Can you ice skate? I haven't done it since I was a child, in a rink now long demolished. I enjoyed it, but I never learned how to skate backwards. Now I need to wear braces on both my ankles when I play basketball, so I'm not sure how long I would be able to skate without incurring injury. I would like to go to the rink in Rockefeller Center or Central Park sometime, though.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? I remember an exceedingly cool and big helicopter for my GI Joe. It was yellow and the propellers would move when you pushed a button on the side. I also remember my mother gave me a tweed jacket, black turtleneck, and beret one year. I looked like a thirteen-year-old French existentialist.

14. What's the most exciting thing about the Holidays for you? The general excess of food, drink, gifts, and laughter with my family. Apart from that, and despite the craziness, I enjoy midtown New York at Christmastime. The tree and the skating rink at Rockefeller Center, the shop windows that I look at from a distance to avoid the crowd, the brass bands playing Christmas carols on Fifth Avenue... I'm a sucker for it all.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but I will never turn down pumpkin pie. When I'm in Spain, marzipan candy.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Our huge Christmas breakfast. Eggs, sausage, bacon, steaks, rolls, champagne, Bloody Marys... Then we are comatose until dinner.

17. What tops your tree? An angel, if I recall correctly.

18. Which do you prefer - giving or receiving? I love presents in general. I love giving things, especially when I hit on the perfect gift. I like getting presents as well -- not so much because I like to have stuff, but I love the surprise of seeing what someone has gotten for me.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? Adeste Fideles. It's a great tune and in a great language. I enjoy "Angels We Have Heard on High," because it's lovely and also has nice rousing Latin bits. Of course, "O Holy Night" and "Silent Night" are gorgeous, especially when sung by a good singer.

On the other hand, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" scares the hell out of me.

20. Candy Canes? No, not really. It's nice to see them around, but I can do without them. They always went uneaten in my house when I was a child.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

feast of St Ambrose

St. Ambrose.

This is not really a responsible post. This is just me checking in. You see, I have been tremendously productive with the charters this week, but it has left little time for blogging. So I will just link you to other people who have been writing worthwhile posts.

I will say little more about dear St. Ambrose. As usual, I leave you with the Franciscans at American Catholic for more information. I was going to write about St. Nicholas yesterday, but Crystal scooped me with a great post on St. Nick's final resting place. What she didn't mention was (I believe I'm remembering right) Nicholas, the bishop of Myra, was present at the Council of Nicaea in 325. So next time you recite the Nicaean creed, remember that Santa Claus was involved in its creation.

I haven't been to Bari, but I have been to Milan and I have seen the tomb of St. Ambrose. He's a bit thin, but all in all he looks pretty good for someone who's been dead for 1,600 years.

The tomb of St. Ambrose in Milan.

Speaking of relics, there is a post in dotCommonweal on a boycott of Ebay called by some Catholics who were distressed by the sale of relics on that website. Really everyone, we've been trying to regulate all of this since the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. Buy your relics from an authorized dealer.

Guillaume le Fou has written a wonderful post about a woman who probably should be a saint, but isn't. I don't know about her relics. Jeff has written a great piece on Iraq, which should be required reading.

That's all for now, I must get back to my charters. Enjoy the links.