The "Times" Draws Nearer
Robert P. Imbelli December 25, 2011 - 7:07am
Last year's "Christmas Editorial" in The New York Times "famously" located the heart of the Christmas Narrative in "shepherds abiding." This year notable progress has been recorded. They write:
It would be wonderful, too, to be woken in the earliest hours of the morning by the heralding of angels proclaiming peace on earth.
Still no mention of the three central figures of the Feast; but we're inching closer. As my mother would piously declaim: "Thank God for all little blessings!"However, to be fair (as columnists are wont to say -- in small print -- as a sign of their ability to discern a multi-sided reality), the Book Review features a splendid reflection by Marilynne Robinson on "What Literature Owes the Bible." She concludes her discussion of the great concluding sermon of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury with these words:
The sermon interprets Benjys wordless first chapter, a tale told as passionate memory of gentleness and love, Faulkner interceding to evoke for Benjy thoughts that are too deep for the words of any writer but one who is generous and also great. Everyone knows that life is profaned when such thoughts are neglected, as they so often are. As a statement about human consciousness and the reality that contains us, this vision is always familiar and never easier to accept. Paul quotes an ancient hymn in his letter to the Philippians that says Christ emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. And this recalls the servant described in the book of Isaiah, one from whom men hide their faces, who was despised, and we esteemed him not. In its emphatic insistence that the burden of meaning is shared in every life, the Bible may only give expression to a truth most of us know intuitively. But as a literary heritage or memory it has strengthened the deepest impulse of our literature, and our civilization.
About the Author
Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is an associate professor of theology at Boston College.