Thursday, 22 December 2011

Donkeys: the stable and the cross

In total contrast to the last few years, we are having a remarkably warm spell of weather in the run up to Christmas;  the thermometer registered 14 degrees (Celsius) here yesterday - on the 'shortest' day of the year.
This is the time when in the great Austin Farrer's words, "Advent brings Christmas, judgement runs out into mercy."  The mass readings and the offices over the next days fully reflect this. The Lord is at hand.

Here is a pre-Christmas photo of a group of donkeys on one of the farms in the parish. We stopped this morning as we were passing to wish them a Merry Christmas!
I can't see donkeys without calling to mind that poem of Chesterton, which, if read at this time of year, cuts across the ever present danger of sentimentality and reminds us of the aim and purpose of the Lord's Incarnation. The stable and the cross cannot be separated:

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

"Neither in literature nor in history has the donkey figured as other than an ambassador of peace and healing. It was on a swift donkey that the Shunamite woman rode in search of Elisha for the healing of her son; a donkey carried the Mother of the Saviour in the time of her need, bore the child to safety in the days of his infancy, and carried him in triumph on His entry into Jerusalem."
Fr Bernard Walke: 'Twenty Years at St Hilary'

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