December 29/January 11, 2019
4th Day of Christmas, Old Style
He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it had cost a fortune.
— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Our yearly visits to friends during the 12 days of Old Style Christmas always bring us to the apartment of some dear parishioners whom our children have nicknamed stari babushka and dedushka (older grandma and grandpa). They are both emigres from Russia and at least one is nearing his last days on this earth. In our society that tends to exile the elderly and idolize youth, it is easy to forget such precious people who live in subsidized senior housing and hardly possess enough resources to exist. Yet, as St. Paul says, “Out of their deep poverty wells up rich generosity.”
We take almost all of our children to sing a few simple Russian Christmas carols. In exchange, we are given inexpensive Christmas ornaments that are imbued with grace as if made in heaven. The wife is an artist and arranges her home in a way that gives grace to every humble item in it. The husband is a writer, a serious thinker, who has left behind a precious treasury of reflections on literature, history, and theology. If only I could read Russian, but just being in his now wordless presence is enough to communicate volumes.
Glory to God for such riches in the midst of want to remind us that God cloaks his greatest wisdom in humility!
Christ his born! Glorify Him! Christos Gennatai! Doxasate! Kristos rozhdaetsya! Slav’te ego!