I send out Christmas cards myself, and each year they seem to be returned tenfold. I received so many beautiful images, reflections, verses, family photos, newsletters, and poems during the month of December and they are still coming…
The wonderful Fr. Sam Fontana of the Lafayette, Louisiana, area, hand-wrote out “Veni Creator,” by Czeslaw Milosz, just to cite one example.
I’ve also had a huge stack of books by my bed–biographies of Townes, van Zandt, Billie Holiday, and cellist Gregor Piatigorsky; a book of worst-trip-ever travel essays, Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks; Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World.
Here’s a teeny smattering.
“Is Virtue Deadly?”
Like the storm-clouds of the exodus, the Church’s face is more luminous today than when it seemed to rule. It has found glory in its humiliation.
Many people have believed in God through the agency of the Church. It now appears that, because of the Church, they no longer can. Undoubtedlly that’s because they have not encountered its submerged reality. Some of them, who have abandoned the second-rate faith they were taught, have become bold. Perhaps they are living the faith more authentically, as if they needed above all to get rid of borrowed ideas and feeings.
But someone who has been truly wounded by the Gospel, and has personally verified that the Church preaches the Word and makes the death and resurrection of Jesus present through the paradox of agony and contempt, can never find a pretext to desert. The one who leaves the Church proves he has never entered. Or, rather, he drags the Church along with him.”
“And the inner freedom can only be attained if we have discovered the means of widening our own horizons. We must progress and grow, we must mount above our own limitations. It can be done; the driving force is the inner urge to conquer whose very existence shows that man’s nature is fundamentally designed for this expansion. A rebel, after all, can be trained to be a decent citizen, but an idler and a dreamer is a hopeless proposition.
Man’s freedom is born in the moment of his contact with God. It is really unimportant whether God forces man out of his limits by the sheer distress of much suffering, coaxes him with visions of beauty and truth, or pricks him into action by the endless hunger and thirst for righteousness that possesses his soul. What really matters is the fact that man is called and he must be sufficiently awake to hear the call.
The law of freedom is an appropriate theme for today. When those worshippers knelt in homage on the floor of the humble stable with everything else put behind them–their homes, the wilderness, the guiding star, the agony of the silent star, the palace of the king and the grandeur of the city–when all these had lost their value and their impressiveness and the worshippers’ whole being was concentrated in the single act of adoration, the symbolic gesture of laying gifts before the manger signified the achievement of liberty. Then they were free.”
“[Holiday’s] art transcends the usual categorizations of style, content and technique. Much of her singing goes beyond itself and becomes a humanistic document; it passed often into a realm that is not only beyond criticism but in the deepest sense inexplicable. We can, of course, describe and analyze the surface mechanics of her art: her style, her technique, her personal vocal attributes; and I suppose a poet could express the essence of her art or at least give us, by poetic analogy, his particular insight into it. But, as with all truly profound art, that which operates from above, below, and all around its outer manifestations is what most touches us, and also remains ultimately mysterious.”
—Gunther Schuller, jazz composer and historian