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Saturday, December 08, 2012

The Feasts of All Children

 Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit

Since researching Saint Nicholas Day on the sixth of December, I have been drawn to the role Nicholas played in our civilization's conceptual understanding of children and society. In particular, the fact that this season we are in begins on Saint Nicholas Day and finds an ending near Childermas, or the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the children who were slaughtered by the order of King Herod.

So we have something I had never noticed before: a season that starts with the Saint who restored life to two brothers who had been murdered for their belongings, and extends through the birth of the Christ Child, and then celebrates the Holy Innocents, a feast which is a climax of gore as well as a celebration of martyrdom.

I begin to suspect that there was a distinct awareness of the abuse of children in the past, and that this season was instituted and modified over time with that awareness very much in the intuitive and the active minds of the peoples of the time: they created a sequence of holy days to celebrate children - to illustrate the horror of crimes against the young and to contrast that with their innocence and sinless natures - all of which makes them counterpoints against the sordidness and evil of the World.

I feel as if I had been blind, and now I see.

This is a time to remember the children now orphans in Bangladesh whose parents and relatives made clothes and childrens' toys made in the factory where 120 people were killed in a fire. This is the season when we must keep the sight of the children slaves in India recently freed from their evil masters who forced them to make Christmas toys and ornaments..., for us.

Scrooge Sees the Boy, Ignorance, and the Girl, Want

As we fight, claw, and gibber madly in the spiritual wasteland of Black Fridays, we fail to realize how black we really are; we are the inhumane processes of Dickensian London portrayed in A Christmas Carol that condemns its own children to poverty, disease, and despair:

"Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!" exclaimed the Ghost.
They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
"Spirit, are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.
"They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.
"Have they no refuge or resource?" cried Scrooge.
"Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. "Are there no workhouses?"
The bell struck twelve.

Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

And this realization of mine that our past generations have tried to build walls of inspiration and holiness and faith to protect the innocent, and we ourselves have not received this gift without debasing it and making it a wretchedness of material excess, leads me to a deep distaste for our ways and times.

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