It might be tempting to treat the upcoming weekend as just another regular ol’ weekend. Christmas Day and New Year’s Day have gone. Friends and family are away. Most have gone back to work or will be soon. In fact, this can be a sad time for many. After all, how often do we get to deck out the house in lights and make Christmas cookies for the grandchildren? How often are we all together as family? For some of us, there might be a sense of relief that all of the planning, preparing, party-going, and package wrapping is over. Perhaps being around certain family members causes us a great deal of stress, and the demands of Christmastime put us in a Scrooge-like state of mind.
However we feel on this first Friday after the New Year, we might do well to reflect on what it is in our lives that gives us real, enduring joy. Christmas lights, carols, friends, and family…these are all very good things, but they do not constitute the primary source of joy—the Incarnate Lord whose face has been revealed to us.
It is said that one of our own Dominican brothers, Blessed Henry Suso (d. 1366), was experiencing suffering and sorrows one Christmas in the 14th Century when a troop of angels came in a vision to bring him Christmas joy.
One of the angels told him that “he must cast off all his sorrows from his mind and bear them [the angels] company, and that he must also dance with them in heavenly fashion. Then they drew the Servant [Suso] by the hand into the dance, and the youth began a joyous song about the infant Jesus, which runs thus: ‘In dulci jubilo …’”
This story recounts the origin of a Christmas hymn familiar to most of us by its English title, “Good Christian Men, Rejoice.” The original, In Dulci Jubilo, was written using a combination of Latin and German lyrics. The first verse reminds us of the primary source of our Christmas joy. “Unsers Herzens Wonne Leit in praesepio.” Our heart’s joy lies in the manger.
Perhaps it would be good for those of us feeling a little sad in these post-festivity days to join Bl. Henry Suso and the angels in this hymn of old which reminds us whence comes true Christmas joy. After all, there is more than a week of Christmastide remaining. January 5th or 8th or 11th need not be any less joy filled than December 25th or January 1st. The Lord has revealed his face to us, so rejoice! “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Phil 4:4).
Image: Giovanni di Paolo, Five Dancing Angels