Saturday, 2 January 2010


The Holy Father in his homily on Christmas Eve points out that 

"...the shepherds, the simple souls, were the first to come to Jesus in the manger and to encounter the Redeemer of the world. The wise men from the East, representing those with social standing and fame, arrived much later".

and goes on to say

"Today too there are simple and lowly souls who live very close to the Lord. They are, so to speak, his neighbours and they can easily go to see him. But most of us in the world today live far from Jesus Christ, the incarnate God who came to dwell amongst us. We live our lives by philosophies, amid worldly affairs and occupations that totally absorb us and are a great distance from the manger".

This reminded me of Evelyn Waugh's great book, 'Helena' published in 1950. At the end of the book Helena is searching for the True Cross . She is in Bethlehem at the feast of the Epiphany and makes the following prayer to the Three Wise Men:

"Like me, you were late in coming. The shepherds were here long before; even the cattle. They had joined the chorus of angels before you were on your way. For you the primordial discipline of the heavens was relaxed and a new defiant light blazed amid the disconcerted stars.

How laboriously you came, taking sights and calculating, where the shepherds had run barefoot! How odd you looked on the road, attended by what outlandish liveries, laden with such preposterous gifts! 

You came at length to the final stage of your pilgrimage and the great star stood still above you.What did you do? You stopped to call on King Herod. Deadly exchange of compliments in which began the the unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent! 

Yet you came and were not turned away. You too found room before the manger. Your gifts were not needed, but they were accepted and put carefully by, for they were brought with love. In that new order of charity there was room for you, too. You were not lower in the eyes of the Holy Family than the ox or the ass. 

You are ... the patrons of all late comers, of all who have a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, for all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.

Dear cousins, pray for me. Pray for the great, lest they perish utterly. For His sake, who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let not them be quite forgotten at the Throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom".

Possibly the most inspired passage in Evelyn Waugh's work.