Dec 25, 2010

If Jesus were Albrecht Dürer

The twenty-fifth day of December is an odd time to commemorate an incarnation of a God? I agree with T.S. Eliot, though, "satisfactory." (the best use of that word in a poem is re-printed below).

Jesus, a rabbi from the first century (a century named after him, so to speak, in the year of our Lord) was born in Palestine, in the Northern Hemisphere, correct? So, he came into the world at the eclipse of the sun’s strength. The Winter Solistice (which by the way, this year was also marked by another eclipse, a lunar one). If he had born in Australia, however, he could have at least eschewed swaddling clothes. And there would have been more reason for sheep (or kangeroo) to be lowing.
How do the Australians celebrate seasonal Christian feasts? I suspect their Christmas's are void of hot chocolate and burning fires. More like surfing and tan lines to fête the baby Jesus.
And their Easter has to be a mess? But, that’s another story. Just suffice it to say, it’s a difficult stretch to celebrate new birth when everything around is falling into winter.
This year, my Christmas has been punctuated not by cattle lowing or away in the manger, but the tip tap tapping of fingers on a keyboard.
Derrida has been on my mind, not Jingle Bells.

But, that’s another post, for another time.
I texted my buddy and said, “Happy Wal-Mart Day! I mean, Happy Christmas!”
Of all the Christian feasts, Christmas is not my favorite.
For one, it is a later addition to the Christian calendar. So, is Mary, Mother of God, on January first. Advent seems to be a better liturgical season, if you ask me. It is not that incarnation isn’t interesting, but parousia is a shit ton more fascinating. Incarnation: I witness that corporeal insistence every day. Parousia? Now, that’s 2012 yarn, right there, yo.
If I had to pick one Christian Christmas feast to commemorate and exclude all others, it would have to be Epiphany. It has parousia and incarnation wrapped up in one. And it reminds me of a poem which I can reprint here, which is vaguely appropriate. Runner up would be Saint Stephen. It’s rather odd Christians celebrate the first martyr (he was stoned to death by liberal Jews).

T. S. Eliot's "Journey of The Magi"

with anchors for the primary symbols and images
compiled by James Dixon
  • 'A cold coming we had of it,
  • Just the worst time of the year
  • For a journey, and such a long journey:
  • The ways deep and the weather sharp,
  • The very dead of winter.'
  • And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
  • Lying down in the melting snow.
  • There were times we regretted
  • The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
  • And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
  • Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
  • And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
  • And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
  • And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
  • And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
  • A hard time we had of it.
  • At the end we preferred to travel all night,
  • Sleeping in snatches,
  • With the voices singing in our ears, saying
  • That this was all folly.
  • Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
  • Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
  • 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,
  • And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
  • But there was no information, and so we continued
  • And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
  • Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
  • 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.
  • We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
  • But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
  • With an alien people clutching their gods.
  • I should be glad of another death.