The Christmas theme dominates in the December issue of Reality. Redemptorist Communications led a pilgrimage of more than fifty people to the Holy Land 23 -31 October. There is an echo of it in a brief picture essay on contemporary Bethlehem. A once a predominantly Christian town, Christians are now in the minority as the political situation forces more and more of the young people to emigrate. The excellent education they have received from the nuns and brothers, usually adding some European languages to the Hebrew, Arabic and English that are the staple of their secondary education. For our Belfast pilgrims, “the Wall” was a familiar sight. Cutting off the Palestinian territory and largely constructed on land confiscated from the Palestinians, it has become a medium on which the locals write messages of defiance, many of them with more than a touch of humour.
One of the best-loved English Christmas carols, O Little Town of Bethlehem, was written by Mrs Alexander, wife of a 19th century Bishop of Derry. This year is the bi-centenary of her birth, and her life is sketched by Rev Professor Patrick Comerford. Salvador Ryan gives us a fascinating article on the gathering of Irish folk-lore about Christmas that took place in primary schools of Ireland in the 1930s. You might think you have discovered a few outrageous typos here – but our proof-reader did not lapse as the children’s spelling of hard words was allowed to stand! Sarah Adams invites us as families to pray with the Advent Wreath, while George Wadding reflects imaginatively on the Second Joyful Mystery, the Visitation. Christmas is also a time for giving: in addition to the usual Trocaire article, there is one on Fr Tony Coote, a Dublin priest who suffers from motor neuron disease, but who led a round Ireland walk as a fund-raiser, and another on the work of Fr Ray Brennan, an Irish-American Redemptorist and his work for children in Thailand.
Let’s conclude with the words of that great Belfast writer and lay theologian, CS Lewis and his poem “Among the oxen”
Like an ox I’m slow,
I see a glory in the stable grow
Which, with the ox’s dullness
might at length, give me an ox’s strength.
Happy Christmas to all our readers.