(1 Kings 19:11-13)
Among the lessons of Christmas is the truth of the principle illustrated by this famous Old Testament passage. We often expect, or at least desire, special divine assistance to be instant and dramatic, like a superhero swooping to the rescue in a Marvel movie. And we lose hope when that doesn’t happen. But God only rarely works that way, and such dramatics have to be rare lest grace smother nature. Special divine assistance is in the ordinary course of things subtle and gradual – a still, small voice rather than a whirlwind, earthquake, or fire – but nevertheless unmistakable when the big picture is kept in view.
At the time of Christ’s nativity, the hope and expectation of Israel was a Messiah who would free the people from servitude, and in particular from subjection to the Roman Empire. And that is indeed what God provided, but not in the manner anticipated. The Messiah arrived, not leading an army in pitched battle, but as a lowly infant in an obscure village. The servitude he freed us from is the most grievous of all, enslavement to sin. And he accomplished something much grander than the mere conquest of the Empire – he converted it. This played out over the course of centuries, and only after much shedding of the blood of his followers. But the end result is undeniable, and made an immeasurably greater difference to world history than a mere victory in battle would have. As his enemy Julian the Apostate lamented after failing to restore the old order Christ upended: “You have conquered, O Galilean!"
It is a lesson that bears repeating when the hope, faith, and indeed charity of many are challenged in the face of seemingly unprecedented crises facing the world and the Church. We cry out to God for aid – and we want it now, and in this manner – and we cannot fathom why he has permitted things to go on as they have for years, indeed decades. But five years, or fifty years, or five hundred – what is that to God? And if he wills to rescue his Church no more swiftly or theatrically – but also no less surely – than the manner in which he first built it, what is that to us?
If we do not perceive his action, in our own lives or in the Church, it may be that we are looking for it in the wrong place – in something analogous to wind, earthquake, or fire. It may be that it is to be found instead in something like the still, small voice that spoke to Elijah, and from the manger in Bethlehem.
Putting the Cross back into Christmas
Great message! Merry Christmas, Dr. Feser!ReplyDelete
Very true. All I can say is amen.ReplyDelete
"Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:ReplyDelete
I saw the tears of the oppressed—
and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—
and they have no comforter.
And I declared that the dead,
who had already died,
are happier than the living,
who are still alive.
But better than both
is the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil
that is done under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3)
"'Come down from that cross, we'll believe!'ReplyDelete
Sure they'll believe! Only . . . no cross."
-- Fulton J Sheen
Awesome! Very good mention of that passage.ReplyDelete
2021 was not really a cool year for a lot of us, i suppose, lot of crazy stuff happened, but we are not the ones writing history, who knows why things are as they are or how the future may be?
If this life were the only life and death were the final blow in a life of adversity, then it might make some sense to question why God allows it.ReplyDelete
But it is NOT the only life, and the difficulties we have now are the means to prepare is for the next one IF we cooperate with Grace
Thank you for the kindly message, Ed! Christmas will never die because God keeps its light within our hearts!ReplyDelete
May God bless you and your family!
Gloria PATRI, et FILIO, et SPIRITUI SANCTO!
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper.
et in saecula saeculorum, Amen!
God bless to you and your family today Ed! Happy feast of the Holy Family!ReplyDelete
Thanks for the post. Merry Christmas Prof. Feser and God bless you (which He has already done) :)ReplyDelete
Great post, great message. I always look forward to your Christmas reflections. Merry Christmas to you and your family. Thank you for your work.ReplyDelete
Merry Second Day of Christmas!ReplyDelete
The Christmas story is one of the loviest to come out of the Western tradition. It is a joyful and befitting story seeing out the end of one year and looking forward to the new. It is an optimistic story.ReplyDelete
While Dr Feser has provided one version [his version of the 'small voice of Christmas'] of the story there is an equally powerful and parallel version extant that lays out the totality of the Western tradition.
The Christmas story is right up there among the greats born out of that tradition, along with the Aesopica, the Iliad, Jason and the Argonauts, the Odessey etc, all of them truly great examples of the creativity and the imagination of human minds, stories that are didactic in intent and giving you the promise of things that are good.
Apollonius of Tyana, a 1st-century CE philosopher, is recorded as having said about Aesop:
".. like those who dine well off the plainest dishes, he made use of humble incidents to teach great truths, and after serving up a story he adds to it the advice to do a thing or not to do it. Then, too, he was really more attached to truth than the poets are; for the latter do violence to their own stories in order to make them probable; but he by announcing a story which everyone knows not to be true, told the truth by the very fact that he did not claim to be relating real events."
And like Aesop's tales, one could not gainsay the humbleness at the heart of the Christmas narrative.
Equally, the historical account of the development of the Christmas story in the Western tradition is itself a wonderfully enjoyable read:Some excerpts:
"The Gospels do not mention the date of Jesus' birth. It was not until the 4th century AD that Pope Julius I set 25th December as the date for Christmas. This was an attempt to Christianise the Pagan celebrations that already took place at this time of year. By 529, 25th December had become a civil holiday and by 567 the twelve days from 25th December to the Epiphany were public holidays.
Christmas is not only a Christian festival. The celebration has roots in the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the festivals of the ancient Greeks, the beliefs of the Druids and the folk customs of Europe."
"Christmas has always been a strange combination of Christian, Pagan and folk traditions. As far back as 389 AD, St Gregory Nazianzen (one of the Four Fathers of the Greek Church) warned against 'feasting in excess, dancing and crowning the doors'. The Church was already finding it hard to bury the Pagan remnants of the midwinter festival."
Tracing its history is every bit as captivating as the Christian narrative itself, mapping out the various overlappings and changes that have come down to us to become the tradition we have today:
"The Church attempted to curb Pagan practices and popular customs were given Christian meaning. Carols that had started as Pagan songs for celebrations such as midsummer and harvest were taken up by the Church. By the late medieval period the singing of Christmas carols had become a tradition."
YOU CAN READ about the historical context here
It's a good honest read.
Thank you for that interesting reminder or how Christianity hijacked pre-existing festivals, incorporated their own myths and legends into them, then presented them as their own. Christmas is not distinctively Christian at all.Delete
Ed STILL hasn't banned Papalinton?? I would have thought this latest post is even more proof that he's a troll...Delete
But what would Christmas be without Scrooge?
Thank you for that interesting reminder or how Christianity hijacked pre-existing festivals, incorporated their own myths and legends into them, then presented them as their own.Delete
Modern European science borrowed the doctrine of atoms and material particles from ancient pagan philosophy, its materialism is borrowed from ancient speculative pagan teachings about the primary elements. And modern scientists presented them as their own. Materialism and the doctrine of atoms are not scientific at all.
Hi Prof FeserDelete
Thank you for ignoring the chorus of voices which endlessly demand that you ban Papalinton from this site. Though of varying relevance to the topic at hand Papalinton's posts are often interesting and prevent this blog from becoming an echo chamber dominated by extremists. I presume that you think something along these lines too otherwise Papalinton would not have enjoyed such longevity here. He most certainly is not a troll.
Thank you for being so unpartisan in your moderation and for rejecting the censorious impulses of some of your supporters.
Merry Christmas to you professor Feser!
Dr. Feser post was already worth of our boy Chesterton, but lets read that as well: https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2021/12/19/on-the-winter-feast/Delete
I don't think papalinton wrote anything offensive.Delete
"But what would Christmas be without Scrooge?"
Your response to Dr Yogami is willful, a deliberate and offensive ad hominem for no other reason than to belittle an interlocutor. I hope you are satisfied and feel pleased with delivering such a low blow at my expense.
I was lead to understand this blogsite was that of a "professional" philosopher where people could argue and put the case in a properly ordered manner.
I have no defence against that form of abuse, which in this case was perpetrated by the proprietor of the site himself with impunity, despite going against his very own better judgment with repeated warnings to others to 'cut it out'.
I have absolutely no recourse to defending myself, as any like counter-response by me would be promptly censored and expunged without even a hint of decency in explaining why so?
The behaviour exhibited in this instance is a deep disappointment.
Though of varying relevance to the topic at hand Papalinton's posts are often interesting and prevent this blog from becoming an echo chamber dominated by extremists.
Anon, you're right. On reflection, I really must apologize to Papalinton. His posts are extremely FASCINATING and are NOT boilerplate atheist schtick AT ALL!
I had never heard that Christianity got its stories or festivals from paganism. Oh, I THOUGHT I did back in my teen years, when I was reading books like T.W. Doane's Bible Myths and their Parallels in Other Religions or Kersey Grave's The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors. Or Joseph R. Daleiden's The Final Superstition. Apparently my memory is faulty. Thanks, Papalinton, for correcting me!
Please don't buy in to Paps trollery.
Paps, the BBC, really?
"It was not until the 4th century AD that Pope Julius I set 25th December as the date for Christmas. This was an attempt to Christianise the Pagan celebrations that already took place at this time of year."
Christmas was already being celebrated by Christians on the 25th December prior to this. It had nothing to do with hijacking pagan celebrations, such as Saturnalia, which was a rather minor celebration anyway. If they really wanted to bury pagan celebrations, they could have hijacked some of the bigger ones? You think their master plan was to take over some obscure midwinter celebration? The choice of date had more to do with speculation about when Christ was conceived, which was speculated to relate to the day of his crucifixion, thus determining when Christ would be born.
I'd suggest watching the recent video from Jimmy Akin which dispels this nonsense that Christmas is simply built on hijacking Pagan celebrations.
@ Edward Feser,Delete
The Grinch and Scrooge both came around.
"Offense" is a relation between two agents. One might deliberately offend another and an unscrupulous defender then deny it ever happened ... as happens in courtrooms all the time.Delete
This even happens on Dr. Feser's blog. Some rate such offense giving according to who is being offended. They call it "hatred" on the one hand or "good for a laugh" on the other.
Such is rank hypocrisy.
Papalinton, lighten up! It was a joke! Merry Christmas to you.Delete
And a Merry Christmas to you, Ed.Delete
Haha.... Methinks Papalinton at 2.11am is cleverly winding you up! Might he be a troll after all?
Merry Christmas to both you and Papilinton@
Really needed this, thank you.
God bless and Merry Christmas!
Echo what others said. Beautiful message.ReplyDelete
Blessings to you Mr. Feser and your family as we continue along the 12 days of Christmas.
Merry Christmas, Dr. Feser! May God bless you and your family!ReplyDelete
I find it endlessly amusing to watch avowedly un-Christian, atheist, anti-Jesus people turn themselves into pretzels to repudiate Christ the God-man and yet insist on finding reasons (oh, so many reasons) to affirm instead "the holiday spirit" and "the holiday season".ReplyDelete
Take, for instance, the government bureaucrat Scrooge-type who sends around the annual December memo insisting on denigrating any Christian or Jewish flavor of the month, but hold up for honor the "spirit of the season." I keep meaning to ask them which spirit that is: cold? or dark? or damp? or being low on fresh fruits and vegetables? etc? They don't seem to get that the "spirit" that people actually WANT to celebrate came from religious events. Came from God and His Son. Otherwise the season is damn miserable.
Or ask them if they happen to know what the word "holiday" even means? "Holy Day", a day to keep holy in remembrance of what God has done for us, and in honor of Him.
But I don't ask those questions, because I don't want to be the focus of their attention (and their spite) when they can't come back with anything coherent.
And then there is the endless attempt to raise up to our attention the delightful Christmas virtues, such as humility, and hospitality, and so on. (Not, naturally, spoken of as "virtue" (which word they hide from), but as "values", but asserted as "desirable" in a sense that is not merely personal preference, but (somehow) right and good for all men and women. Of course the same materialistic atheists - in all other contexts - deny as a matter of principle that there are any objective standards of good, and will always rally to defeat any normal standard as being chauvinist, patriarchal, imperialistic, bigoted, etc. All the while benefiting from the (barely surviving, emaciated, and weakening) virtues that have made society and wealth of any sort possible, and blindly assuring everyone that the death of all personal and public virtues "is a good thing, really, we'll all benefit", in utter disregard for the horrific results when any society tries that experiment in detail.
Let me re-state what our good friend Lydia McGrew illustrated so well in dealing with Gospel "higher" criticism: fake stories don't establish spiritual truths. If Mary and Jesus had not really been humble in real life events, stories about them being humble would not actually establish any bona fides for the virtue of humility (a virtue notably missing from Aristotle's otherwise excellent list).
Tony, I realize that exponents of different ideologies will cleave to their own and will use rhetorical tropes to attack ideologies opposed to their own. Yet somehow it seems "off" to me to see so often classical theists say that they are amused that skeptics or unbelievers or whoever do not adhere to classical theist positions. Why is this amusing?Delete
You think it is funny that people, in your view, are blinded by error?
Your mocking tone is not attractive. Just sayin'.
On these atheists, the answer is: tradition. Even the more so-called free thinkers are not disembodied minds but instead a product of their society and this is shown not only on their intelects but also on their actions. Should a follower of modern Rationality act like this? Nah, but if these guys were to be coherent things would be weird...
I remember a chapter of "Heretics" were Chesterton criticized some antropologists for failling to see that a lot of our common pratices have meanings that we are not really aware of and than the same was true on ancient and today tribal societies. Your average boring atheist* is no exception. I only learned myself the meaning of several Christmas items some weeks ago!
*not that all are, but the ones being discussed are booooring
Why is this amusing?Delete
You think it is funny that people, in your view, are blinded by error?
ficino: no, I am not amused by the errors, nor by the mere fact that some hold to premises I don't accept. I said I am amused by the lack of consistency in those who reject on their right hand what they implicitly accept on their left.
To be fair, I try also to be amused at my own inconsistencies when I discover them, or when they are pointed out. I may not be 100% successful, but often I am. Mr. Bennett's comment to his daughter Elizabeth on amusement at the foibles of our acquaintances comes to mind.
- Edward Feser December 27, 2021 at 12:35 PM says,ReplyDelete
But what would Christmas be without Scrooge?"
LOL And what would an honest philosopher's comment blog box be without Atheist+ appetite-bundle fools entering in and emoting about hoomanity, and chattering on about "we" this, and "we" that?
Ed, you might need to hire a part time sociopath to visit here once in awhile; just in order to remind them that there is nothing really - really - wrong with leaving them, or anyone else uncongenial, to die in a ditch alongside the road if we grant their metaphysics as a premise - and that that allowance would not entail that a passerby necessarily leave everyone to so die. Or to remind them, that, say, punching Margret Mead in her fat round annoying bespectacled face is [would have been] merely the violation of a culturally relative taboo. And that that allowance would not thereby imply that it would be necessary to do so in all cases regarding dishonest agenda driven relativists, or to make some principle out of acting in that manner.
Oh, and Merry Christmas! For real ... Merry Christmas.
Damn! Great spirit of Christmas, punching a woman in the face.Delete
"Anonymous December 28, 2021 at 2:31 PMDelete
Damn! Great spirit of Christmas, punching a woman in the face."
Speaking of sensitive souls ...
Nobody actually got punched in the face, in case you missed it. Not even the long deceased academic fraud who made her reputation with "Coming of Age in Samoa", and that jabber about "coy hoydens" and ardent island Romeos which helped establish moral relativism as the default intellectual position among self-respecting western social progressives.
Thus, it was the principle of objective morality that was being discussed ... though the delicacy of certain readers might have caused them to miss that point.
I'll state it in more blatant terms for your benefit:
When we consider conflicting standards of morality and their application in general - and then specifically with regard to an agenda driven relativism assiduously promoted for decades - it will profit one to recall this principle:
" ... with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. ... For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you."
If then, you live by the relativity of the taboo, it looks like you are going to have to live with it, as well. Or at least not complain too much when it redounds upon your own head.
Merry Christmas Dr. Feser! Like many others, I am thankful for your work and for your life. May God bless you.ReplyDelete
What a wonderfully kind (and humbling!) thing to say! Thank you, Michael -- and thanks to everyone else above too -- for your very kind words and wishes. God bless and protect you all.Delete
Ed Feser the tolerant and patient finally advises one of his self-styled "interlocutors" to "lighten up".ReplyDelete
So many "sensitive souls" for one mere man, philosopher or no, to accommodate. Albeit the term "soul" as used here must be stipulated as being employed metaphorically; lest the particular party referred to either be unfairly misrepresented as having one, or that it experience offense at being mislabeled ostensively with a spiritual, or even Biblical, pronoun.
Nonetheless, while not wishing to appear unduly insensitive toward the sensitive, we do recognize certain classic parallels when it comes to voices both proclaiming their victim-hood and presuming a mutuality context which their own metaphysics or fundamental worldview undercuts.
"Your response ... is willful, a deliberate and offensive ad hominem for no other reason than to belittle an interlocutor. I hope you are satisfied and feel pleased with delivering such a low blow at my expense.
I was lead to understand this blogsite was that of a "professional" philosopher where people could argue and put the case in a properly ordered manner.
I have no defence against that form of abuse, which in this case was perpetrated by the proprietor of the site himself with impunity ...
I have absolutely no recourse to defending myself, as any like counter-response by me would be promptly censored and expunged without even a hint of decency in explaining ..."
Very good! Now, let's enjoy verse two and its prologue.
... the Clevers ... agreed that Victoriana had better sing first. When Victoriana rose John at first thought that she was a schoolgirl: but after he had looked at her again he perceived that she was in fact about fifty. ... Victoriana took a little toy harp and began. The noises of the toy harp were so strange that John could not think of them as music at all. ...
‘I hope you liked it,’ said Gus to John.
‘Well,’ began John doubtfully, for he hardly knew what to say: but he got no further, for at that moment he had a very great surprise. Victoriana had thrown her mask away and walked up to him and slapped him in the face twice, as hard as she could. ...
‘You may persecute me as much as you like,’... ‘No doubt to see me thus with my back to the wall, wakes the hunting lust in you. You will always follow the cry of the majority. But I will fight to the end. So there,’ ... ‘And I _know_ it was a good song,’ ... ‘because all great singers are persecuted in their lifetime—and I’m per-persecuted—and therefore I _must_ be a great singer.’
‘You mustn’t mind her being a little bitter,’ said Gus. ‘She is so temperamental and sensitive, and she has suffered a great deal.’ ..."
As we see, All's Well That Ends Well. More or less, that is, and not taking any parallels to an extreme.
Great story, DNW. Somewhat a little over melodramatic, though. I'm sure Victoriana [Papalinton] wouldn't have slapped John [Dr Feser] twice, as hard as she could. It's not in her nature. And I don't see Ed smarting from any such slap, not in his response at least. But, then again he may have confided in you to that effect, a moment in which none of us would have been a party to. But I doubt any such moment occurred.ReplyDelete
Lovely imaginative theme though, one of the wonders of the creative human mind.
Aww, this comment section is heartwarming, as is this post.ReplyDelete
I see so many secular right-wingers on the Internet acting totally despondent about their chances at saving the West. They cope by puffing themselves up and telling themselves that they are Nietzschean supermen who have what it takes to fight and conquer their opposition. It convince nobody, least of all them. They take to accelerationism, an eschatology of despair. If only they knew Jesus Christ...
Papalinton December 28, 2021 at 8:18 PM said,ReplyDelete
"Great story, DNW. Somewhat a little over melodramatic, though..."
Even the minor and overlooked early works of Lewis pay some returns. In some ways Pilgrim's Regress is the fantasy I liked best. Though, it is the terse and evocative descriptions of both scene and character in any of his novellas which most impress, and which I find enjoyable. Others, sensitive souls no doubt, think he was too cutting and merciless in his allegorical sketches there.
Of melodrama, I find little, unless one includes the occasional contextual versification which is added for hortatory or didactic purposes. It may not be precisely melodrama but it makes one, or me at least, squeamish.
Lewis is best at fiction, in my opinion, when slicing and dicing personalities and their worldviews on a presumptively mundane plane; or whwn simply describing a scene with impressive economy and evocation. When he grows a bit Wagnerian however, well ...
"I don't see Ed smarting from any such slap, not in his response at least. But, then again he may have confided in you to that effect, a moment in which none of us would have been a party to. "ReplyDelete
I have never had any "private" or direct communications with Edward Feser, save one years ago e-mail in which he responded to a question by reminding me of Meinong's role as having been a real life philosophical foil, or better, target, in precipitating Russell's development of his corrective theory of definite descriptions.
A round square?ReplyDelete
A square round?
"You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto.
Let's call the whole thing off"