Falling faintly

Yes, the news­pa­pers were right: snow was gen­eral all over Ire­land … It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and head­stones, on the spears of the lit­tle gate, on the bar­ren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the uni­verse and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the liv­ing and the dead. — James Joyce, “The Dead”


Each year I begin listening to Christmas music a little earlier, and the ladies in my suite roll their eyes and groan. The same thing has happened this year, although I feel justified: The first flurries of the semester have been falling for several hours now, and so I turned on the Sufjan Christmas album (well technically, first I listened to some Michael Bublé, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Yes, to be honest I fall into the trap of the materialistic flashy American Christmas craze as December approaches. I like to think about the stuff that I will receive or buy, have an excuse to eat sweets guilt-free (Christmas desserts don’t make you fat, right?), and gaze at the entrancing decorations and trinkets in the shops on 5th Ave. and the upper floors of Macy’s. But besides the temporary buzz that is “Christmas cheer,” there’s something deeper I’m longing for.

In a grave tragedy, last Sunday Columbia lost a student to suicide—the second that has occurred during my time here. Today as I listened to the words and twangy chords of Sufjan’s “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” I realized in a very real sense that Christmas can’t come soon enough. I checked the advent calendar and saw that the first Sunday of advent is not ’til November 27th. We can’t wait that long.

Sooner than later, we need the night to end. We need hope and life, comfort and joy. At the same time, I’ve had some rough but illuminating self-epiphanies in the past couple days, and to me that’s an indicator that someone greater than me is at work. Mysteriously, God is already with us. But it’s ok to anticipate the big day when we celebrate this, even if it’s two months before.

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4 thoughts on “Falling faintly

  1. Precisely my feelings. There is a trivial sort of happiness about Christmas that is quite nice to enjoy and become excited about, but only when blended with true joy does it gain meaning. I love reading your blog posts. You always demonstrate perfect control of your words to express feelings and thoughts usually contained only in the mind. The sign of a skilled writer, indeed.

  2. We are having a “Literature Appreciation Day” in my Trivium class today. I’m going to read this to my students as we draw nearer and nearer to Christmas Day.

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