Merry Christmas to donkeys and all!

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Some of my favorite parishioners sent me this card while away for Christmas. It was chosen, I’m sure, because of the donkey, what with yours truly being the donkey-priest. I notice that the other beasts are quite a bit further away, distracted by the kings arriving from the East. Meanwhile, the donkey, with great peripheral vision, is keeping an eye on Jesus, just playing with the hay, not really eating. Moreover, that donkey is standing sideways so as to play the billboard, as it were.  He’s giving the Holy Family a good view of the cross painted on his back, not that they haven’t seen it on him before. Mary rode down to Bethlehem from Nazareth, a treacherous journey, on the back of this beast, and would soon be on their way with him to Egypt, and then back. Another similar donkey would bring Jesus into Jerusalem for His crucifixion.

I really like the title: “Watching in wonderment.” This takes purity of heart and agility of soul. It takes a child. If we’re not like children we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. So, that’s really important. We need to slow down. “Watching in wonderment.” I love it.

If you can see it, the angels directly behind the Holy Family are one to either side of a smaller manger. That manger is below the main altar of Saint Mary Major Basilica in Rome. Meanwhile, there is a tradition that the wood of that manger became the wood of the cross. So how is it that the wood of the manger is still in the form of a manger and the wood of the Cross is to be found on the other side of Rome in the Basilica of the Holy Cross. The artist of this card has presented a good answer, with a support structure over the manger forming a cross.

Think of it. Soldier-executioners responsible for crucifying criminals saw this and brought it back to Jerusalem from nearby Bethlehem when they were there executing all male children two years old and under on Herod’s behalf. I would if I were them. Anyway, just a spurious thought which, however, might transport us back to the day, that quiet day, in which, watching in wonderment, straining to hear the quietest peep from baby Jesus, one hears the echoes on the mountainsides and sloping hills the voices of angels singing: “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace…

Meanwhile, I hope for the day that the angels, who, it is true, as pure spirits with no bodies, have no differentiation of male/female, but are each and every one an entirely different creature (see the commentary of the Angelic Doctor), it is also nevertheless true that all angels in the Sacred Scriptures (Raphael, Michael, Gabriel…) and throughout the history of the Church (such as the Angel of Fatima) appear exclusively as male, often as warriors.

Saint Michael’s name speaks to how he wins his battles, that is, with his humility, what with his being “Like unto God.” Saint Gabriel’s name speaks to his being the military commander of Saint Michael (which is not unsupported in the Scriptures), for Gabriel refers to a war-hero, commander type special operator of God.

I digress, but I can’t help it. Even special operators, even angels, sing. Can you, straining, hear them? Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace…

Merry Christmas! Or as the Brits who are not in a drunken stupor say: Happy Christmas!

8 Comments

Filed under Angels, Christmas, Donkeys

8 responses to “Merry Christmas to donkeys and all!

  1. pelerin

    Happy Christmas to you Father from across the pond!

  2. pelerin

    I know you pray especially for Priests Father.
    I have just read a report about a young Priest (only 45 years old) who suffered a heart attack and died last night while celebrating the Christmas Mass in Brittany, France. A fireman in the congregation tried to revive him but was not successful. No name has been given so far. May he rest in peace.

  3. Father George David Byers

    I know priests there. Let me know when you know….

  4. elizdelphi

    donkey, front and center. I like it.

    Our bishop recently asked for all the parishes to include the St Michael prayer in the intercessions at every Sunday Mass. He said it is not for any one thing but he has cited that church attack in Texas where babies (among others) were shot at close range as having a demonic character.

    As for the priest in France, in that case at least thankfully it was natural. To me it is a very beautiful thought for a to die at Mass, distressing though it would be to those present.

  5. pelerin

    Father George – I have looked at several French news outlets but his name has not yet been given. They seem to copy from the same Press Release. He was celebrating Mass at the Basilica of Ste-Anne-d’Auray and was born in the Congo but was there for just a 6 day stay so could have come from anywhere else in France, it is probable they will wait until his family have been informed before releasing a name.

    elizdelphi – a friend said to me yesterday exactly what you wrote that this was a beautiful way for a Priest to die. He had just read the Gospel according to one account though others say he was giving his homily and just sunk to his knees.

  6. pelerin

    Father George – there is a little more given on a local newspaper website. The Priest was a Theology student in Toledo Spain and was not in the Breton diocese but had asked if he could help out in the Basilica for Christmas as he wanted to visit it – Ste-Anne-d’Auray is a pilgrimage site. It says his Congolese Bishop has been informed so it looks as if he did not come from another parish in France but from the Congo itself.

  7. pelerin

    The TV channel France 3 for the Brittany region has given the Priest’s name as Armand Numbi. May he rest in peace.

  8. Great analysis of the postcard. The donkey is the most significant animal in the life of Christ in the New Testament. I think the only animal he is connected with actually?
    I wrote a fable called “The Donkey King.” If you would like to read it, I am open to any feedback: https://christopherjohnlindsay.wordpress.com/2017/12/30/the-donkey-king-fable/

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