A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Terror of Christmas

from Eifelheim:

The monks at St. Martin’s Church were assembling a large crèche in the sanctuary.  Francis of Assisi had begun the custom of building a Christmas crèche, and its popularity had lately been growing in the Germanies. 
     “We start placing figures after Martinmas,” the prior explained.  The Feast of St. Martin would mark the popular beginning of the Christmas season, though not the liturgical one.  “First, the animals.  Then, on Christmas Vigil-night, the Holy Family; on Christmas day, the Shepherds; and finally on Epiphany, the Wise Men.” 
     “Certain church fathers,” Dietrich said, “ascribed the Nativity to March, which would be more reasonable than December if shepherds were watching their flocks by night.” 
     The monks paused in their labors and looked at each other.  They laughed.  “It’s what happened that matters, not when it happened,” the prior told him.
     Dietrich had no answer, only that it was the sort of historical irony that had appealed to students in Paris and he was no longer a student and this was not Paris.  “The calendar is wrong in any case,” he said. 
     “As Bacon and Grosseteste showed,” the prior agreed.  “Franciscans are not backward in natural philosophy.  ‘Only the man learned in nature truly understands the Spirit, since he uncovers the Spirit where it lies – in the heart of nature.’” 
     Dietrich shrugged.  “I intended a jest, not a criticism.  Everyone talks about the calendar, but no one does anything to fix it.”  In fact, since the Incarnation signified the beginning of a new era, it had been symbolically assigned to New Year’s Day in March, and December 25th necessarily fell nine months after.  Dietrich nodded at the crèche.  “In any case, a pretty display.”
     “It is not ‘a pretty display,’” the prior admonished him, “but a dread and solemn warning to the mighty: ‘Behold your God: a poor and helpless child!’” 

1 comment:

  1. I am still wincing about this bit –

    In fact, since the Incarnation signified the beginning of a new era, it had been symbolically assigned to New Year’s Day in March,…

    When in fact it was the other way round. Yeah, I know and I know you know, but there are people out there who will have read that and taken it as the straight poop.


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