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The Holy Night Header 

By Selma Lagerlof

 

It was a Christmas day and all the folks had driven to church except Grandma and me. We had not been permitted to go along, because one was too old and the other was too young. And we were sad, the both of us, because we had not been taken to early Mass to hear the singing and to see the Christmas candles.

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But as we sat there in our loneliness, Grandmother began to tell a story.

“There was a man,” said she, “who went out into the dark night to borrow live coals to kindle a fire. He went from hut to hut and knocked. ‘Dear friends, please help me!” said he. ‘My wife has just given birth to a child, and I must make a fire to warm her and the little one.’

“But it was way in the night, and all the people were asleep. No one replied 

“The man walked and walked. At last he saw the gleam of a fire a long way off. Then he went in that direction, and saw that the fire was burning in the open. A lot of sheep were sleeping around the fire and an old shepherd watched over the flock.

Campfire“When the man who wanted to borrow fire came up to the sheep, he saw that three big dogs lay asleep at the shepherd’s feet. All three awoke when the man approached and opened their great jaws, as though they wanted to bark. But not a sound was heard. The man noticed that the hair on their backs stood up and that their sharp, white teeth glistened in the firelight. They dashed toward him. He felt that one of them bit at his leg and one at his hand and that one clung to his throat. But their jaws and teeth wouldn’t obey them, and the man didn’t suffer the least harm.

“Now the man wished to go farther to get what he needed. But the sheep lay back to back and so close to one another that he couldn’t pass them. Then the man stepped on their backs and walked over them and up to the fire.  And not one of the animals awoke or moved.

“When the man had almost reached the fire, the shepherd looked up. He was a surly old man, who was unfriendly and harsh toward human beings. And when he saw the young man coming, he seized his long spiked staff, which he always held in his hand when he tended his flock, and threw it at him. The staff came right toward the man, but before it reached him it turned off to one side and whizzed past him, far out into the meadow.

“Now the man came up to the shepherd and said to him, ‘Good man, help me and lend me a little fire! My wife has just given birth to a child, and I must make a fire to warm her and the little one.’

“The shepherd would rather have said no, but when he pondered that the dogs couldn’t hurt the man and that the sheep had not run from him, and that his staff had not wished to strike him, he was a little afraid and dared not deny the man that which he asked 

“’Take as much as you need!’ he said to the man.

“But then the fire was nearly burnt out. There were no logs or branches left, only a big heap of live coals; and the stranger had neither spade nor shovel, wherein he could carry the red-hot coals.

“When the shepherd saw this, he said again, ‘Take as much as you need!’ And he was glad that the man wouldn’t be able to take away any coals.

But the man stooped and picked the coals from the ashes with his bare hands, and laid them in his mantle. And he didn’t burn his hands when he touched them, nor did the coals scorch his mantle; but he carried them away as if they had been nuts or apples.

Sheep“And when the shepherd, who was such a cruel and hard-hearted man, saw all of this he began to wonder to himself: ‘What kind of night is this when the dogs to not bite and sheep are not scared, and the staff does not kill or the fire scorch?’ He called the stranger back, and said to him: “What kind of a night is this? And how does it happen that all things show you compassion?’

“’Then said the man, ‘I cannot tell you if you yourself do not see it.’ And he wished to go his way that he might soon make a fire and warm his wife and child.

“But the shepherd did not wish to lose sight of the man before he found out what all this might portend. He got up and followed the man till they came to the place where he lived.

“Then the shepherd saw that the man had not so much as a hut to dwell in, but that his wife and babe were lying in a mountain grotto, where there was nothing but the cold and naked stone walls.

“The shepherd thought that the poor and innocent child might freeze to death there in the grotto; and, although he was a hard man, he was touched, and thought that he would like to help it. He loosened his knapsack from his shoulder, took from it a soft, white sheep skin, gave it to the stranger, and said that he should let the child sleep on it.

“But just as soon as he showed that he, too, could be merciful, his eyes were opened and he saw what he had not been able to see before.

Angel“He saw that all around him stood a ring of silver-winged angels, and each held a stringed instrument and sang in loud tones that tonight the Savior was born who should redeem the world from its sins.

“Then he understood that all things were so happy this night that they didn’t want to do anything wrong.

“And it was not only around the shepherd that there were angels, but he saw them everywhere. They sat inside the grotto, they sat outside on the mountain and they flew under the heavens. They came marching in great companies, and, as they passed, they paused and cast a glance at the child.

“There was such a jubilation and such gladness and songs and play! All this he saw in the dark night, whereas before he could not have made out anything. He was so happy because his eyes had been opened that he fell upon his knees and thanked God.”

Here Grandmother sighed and said, “What that shepherd saw, we might also see, for the angels fly down from heaven every Christmas Eve, if we could only see them.”

Then Grandmother laid her hand on my head and said, “You must remember this, for it is true, as true as that I see you and you see me. It is not revealed by the light of lamps or candles, and it does not depend upon sun and moon; but that which is needful is, that we be merciful. Only then our eyes will open as to see God’s glory.”

 


 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for April 19, 2021

He asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise....

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April 19

 

A dying man asked a dying man for eternal life. 
A man without possessions asked a poor man for a Kingdom. 
A thief at the door of death asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise. 
 
One would have thought a saint would have been the first soul 
purchased over the counter of Calvary by the red coins of Redemption. 
 

But in the Divine plan it was a thief 
who was the escort of the King of kings 
into Paradise.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

 
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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Alphege of Canterbury

Alphege hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing...

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St. Alphege of Canterbury

As a youth, Alphege became a monk in the monastery of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire, England, afterwards an anchorite and later an abbot in a monastery in Bath. At thirty, at the insistence of St. Dunstan and to his great consternation, he was elected Bishop of Winchester. As bishop, he maintained the same austerity of life as when a monk. During his episcopate he was so generous toward the poor that there were no beggars left in the diocese of Winchester.

Alphege served twenty-two years as bishop of this see and was then translated to the see of Canterbury at the death of Archbishop Aelfric.

During this period, England suffered from the ravages of the Danes who joined forces with the rebel Earl Edric, marched on Kent and laid siege to Canterbury. When the city was betrayed, there was a terrible massacre, men and women, old and young, dying by the sword.

The Archbishop hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing through the crowd begged the Danes to cease the carnage. He was immediately seized, roughly handled, and imprisoned.

A mysterious and deadly plague broke out among the Danes, and, despite the fact that the holy prelate had healed many of their own with his prayers and by giving them blessed bread, the Danes demanded an exorbitant ransom for his release. As the Archbishop protested that the country was too poor to pay such a price, he was brutally assassinated.

St. Alphege was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die a violent death. In 1023, the martyr's body was translated with great ceremony to Canterbury accompanied by the Danish King Canute. Although he did not die directly in defense of the Faith, St. Alphege is considered a martyr of justice.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a...

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The Robber Who Stole Heaven

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. His occupation being what it was, he would only increase his property by decreasing that of his victims.

One day, he was admonished by a local religious to change his course of life and thereby insure his eternal salvation. The only answer the robber gave was that for him there was no remedy.

"Do not say so," said the religious, "do what I tell you. Fast on each Saturday in honor of the Virgin Mary, and on that day of the week do no harm to anyone. She will obtain for you the grace of not dying in God’s displeasure.”

The robber thought to himself, “This is a small price to pay to insure my salvation; I will do as this holy man has prescribed.” He then obediently followed the religious’ advice, and made a vow to continue to do so. That he might not break it, from that time on he traveled unarmed on Saturdays.

Many years later, our robber was apprehended on a given Saturday by the officers of justice, and that he might not break his oath, he allowed himself to be taken without resistance. The judge, seeing that he was now a gray-haired old man, wished to pardon him.

Then the truly miraculous occurred. Rather than jump for joy thanking the judge for his leniency, the old robber, said that he wished to die in punishment of his sins. He then made a public confession of all the sins of his life in that same judgment hall, weeping so bitterly that all present wept with him.

He was beheaded, a death reserved for the nobility, rather than hanged. Then his body was buried with little ceremony, in a grave dug nearby.
Very soon afterwards, the mother of God came down from Heaven with four holy virgins by her side. They took the robber’s dead body from that place, wrapped it in a rich cloth embroidered with gold, and bore it themselves to the gate of the city.

There the Blessed Virgin said to the guards: "Tell the bishop from me, to give an honorable burial, in such a church to this dead person, for he was my faithful servant." And thus it was done.

All the people in the village thronged to the spot where they found the corpse with the rich pall, and the bier on which it was placed. And from that moment on, says Caesarius of Heisterbach, all persons in that region began to fast on Saturdays in honor of she who was so kind to even a notorious robber.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. 

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