I think every Christmas, apart from the Holy Family, another dominant figure plays an important role in the festivities, particularly that of popular culture: Santa Claus. Most of us already know that this popular red-faced and jolly character was inspired by the figure of St Nicholas, a bishop in the city of Myra. Aside from stories of his compassion and generosity (with said stories becoming the basis of the generous and compassionate nature of good old Santa Claus), many of us (me included) know little else of his life. As I read up more about the life of St Nicholas, he struck me as someone who was very different from the Santa Claus of popular culture. While many of his legends stemmed around his propensity to help those who needed help, his fierce devotion to God was what ran counter to the Santa Claus we all know. This was a man unafraid of his faith, a man who was willing to defend his faith and his brothers and sisters despite any circumstances.
Greg talks about the shepherds in the Christmas narrative: the necessary faith and openness needed to respond to the praises of the angels.
Picture the scene with me. You’re a night security officer. You’ve just come back from dinner and are intently trying not to fall asleep at your station. It’s quite late at night but you remain faithful to your job. And then, all of a sudden, a bright light begins to shine in front of you and you squint, trying to see who on Earth would switch on such a bright light at night. And lo and behold, you see this figure standing in front of you, apparently emanating this strong light that is blinding you. You are terrified. But as soon as you feel this fear, the figure says, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12). With that, more and more figures appear and they began to chant and sing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14). And this goes on and on until, slowly, one by one, the figures leave and you’re alone in your station once again. How would you react?
In the final part of the analysis, Garrett discusses the trials and responsibilities of creating art.
Welcome back to our final instalment of our analysis of G.K. Chesterton’s poem, A Christmas Song for Three Guilds! As always, the previous three parts can be found on this very site, and I highly recommend at least reading Part 1 first to provide some of the context behind my analysis. Otherwise, you might find some of the more violent imagery in the poem a little off-putting. Today, we’ll be listening to Saint Luke, the Patron Saint of Painters, as he teaches us the virtue of Prudence.
So why is Saint Luke the Patron of Painters? Wasn’t he a doctor? Well, Christian tradition has him as the first painter of religious icons, with various holy images attributed to his hand. In fact, in the medieval era, it was common for Painter’s Guilds to be known as Guilds of Saint Luke. Chesterton portrays Luke’s message as a warning to painters and those involved in the arts, exhorting them to be careful about what exactly they’re painting.
So for the final time, let’s begin our analysis!
Greg ponders on what John the Baptist means when he asks us to “make straight the path” and talks about how he sometimes confuses the path for the end goal instead of simply that: a path.
A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
In our Advent Gospels, we always hear of John the Baptist and his mission to prepare for the coming of Jesus. And part of this call is an echo of what Isaiah has foretold and what John the Baptist reaffirms in John 1:23:
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord”
In the following article, Chris compares the differing responses of Zechariah and Mary towards Angel Gabriel’s proclamation of Good News.
As a child, I often wondered why Zechariah, father of John the Baptist and husband to Elizabeth – Mary’s cousin – was “unable to speak” and became “mute” after his encounter with Angel Gabriel (Luke 1:20). Correspondingly, I found it even more interesting to compare the aftermath of his response to Angel Gabriel with that of Mary. Therefore, in this Advent season, I found it timely and poignant to properly articulate my thoughts juxtapose these two pivotal characters of the Advent Narrative. Why did Mary’s brother-in-law, receive such a harsh treatment from Angel Gabriel and what made his response any different from Mary’s? What lessons can we then learn from both their responses?
In the third part of the analysis, Garrett shows how St. Crispin teaches us the virtue of humility.
Welcome to Part 3 of our analysis of G.K. Chesterton’s A Christmas Song for Three Guilds! Part 1 and Part 2 can be found elsewhere on this blog. I highly recommend giving a read through to Part 1 at least as over there I went through some important principles to take note of when reading this poem, especially on Chesterton’s use of violent imagery. In Part 3, we’ll be look at the second guild, the Shoemakers, who are addressed by their patron, Saint Crispin!
Now, Saint Crispin is a little obscure, so perhaps a bit of an introduction is in order. Crispin and his brother Crispinian are two martyrs from the time of the early Church, that mysterious, legendary group that I wrote about last month. The two brothers went to preach the Gospel in Roman Gaul, that is to say, modern-day France. Along the way, they earned their keep by making shoes, much like how Saint Paul supported himself through tent-making. Eventually, they were captured in the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian and martyred for their Faith. So the legend goes.
What we are learning today from Saint Crispin’s address is the virtue of humility. So let’s get right into it!
‘St. Crispin to the shoemakers said on a Christmastide:
“Who fashions at another’s feet will get no good of pride.’
The analysis continues as Garrett moves on to Saint Joseph’s address to the Carpenter’s Guild.
If you’re coming here after reading Part 1, welcome back! If not, do be aware that this is Part 2 of four-part series where I’ll be analysing G.K. Chesterton’s A Christmas Song for Three Guilds. We’re taking it one stanza at a time, and the first part does establish some very important context for us while reading this poem. So I’d highly recommend giving it a read-through to avoid any confusion. Part 2 will still be here when you’re done!
In Part 1, we talked about the birth of Jesus being a challenge to us to lead inspiring Christian lives, no matter where we are in life or what profession we are in. In this next part, we will be examining this through the life of St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, and whom we know of course, Jesus inherited his first profession from. So who better to look to when asking how we can live authentic Christian lives in the secular world? Without further ado, let’s dive into the poem, and let St. Joseph teach us a thing or two about the virtue of Kindness.
Garrett begins an analysis of Chesterton’s poem, “A Christmas Song for Three Guilds”.
What does Advent mean to us, on a personal level? How does this brief season, where we prepare for the coming of Jesus, relate to how we live our lives for the rest of the year? Before the dawn of Advent proper, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, where we recognize the sovereignty of Jesus in our lives, in preparation for his coming as the newborn king. But many find this idea of Jesus as ‘King’ problematic – in a democratic era, kingship can easily be seen as something oppressive and tyrannical. Therefore in this Advent season, I’d like to turn to G.K. Chesterton’s poem A Christmas Song for Three Guilds, which I believe suggests a much more egalitarian idea of the Kingdom of God than we are likely to picture.