Wisława Szymborska was right when she declaimed that “the world is never ready for the birth of a child”. This always applies, and even more so, if the child who is born is also the creator of this never-ready world, if this child who cries because of the cold in the damp cave of Bethlehem coincides with the Almighty because, like the said Jan Twardowski “The Almighty can do everything / and therefore also cry / The Almighty when He loves knows how to be the weakest”.
We citizens of the Old Continent (or Old Continent?) are the least ready for the birth of Jesus, and therefore of any child: we are unable to face all this complexity, the richness of this surprise, to be taken against foot by someone similar to us but smaller, who is therefore at the same time more fragile and dependent, but also stronger than us, who is born naked and poor, and therefore more free.
For Catholics, the paradox of Christmas, of a God who, in order to redo the entire human journey, preferred to be born in a cave, has become harder to bear, no doubt because we have intellectualized the faith, losing this physical character which is however a fundamental aspect: Catholicism is the most materialistic religion according to the lesson of Romano Guardini. We have truly become the “wise and intelligent” from whom the Lord has kept things hidden “to reveal them to the little ones” (Mt 11:25) and the little ones know the things of God, it is enough to stop for a moment and look at them, attentively, trying to get up to them, which is beyond us.
Anyone who has lived the experience of educating little men (and all of us, sooner or later, are called to live this experience because we all have the responsibility of successive generations to our own) understands the truth of the verses of Janusz -Korczack: “You say: it’s tiring to socialize with children. / You are right. You add: / because you have to get down to their level, bend down, / bow, bend over, make yourself small. / There, you are wrong. / This is not what tires the most. / It’s more about being forced to rise / up to the height of their feelings. / To stretch, to lie down, to hoist up on tiptoe. / So as not to hurt them”.
We have lost the physical aspect of faith and no doubt misplaced the “dialect” so dear to Francis, which is the channel for transmitting the faith. Sunday 8 January in the morning, in the homily of the Mass for the baptism of some children, the Pope invited everyone to reflect “a little on the fact that these children whom you are bringing now are beginning to take a path, but it is you and the godfathers and godmothers to help them move forward on this path. We are taught to pray, when we are children: that they learn to pray, like children, at least to do it with their hands, with gestures… That they learn prayer, from childhood , because prayer will be what will give them strength throughout their lives: in good times, to thank God, and in bad times, to find strength. This is the first thing you must teach them: to pray”.
The Pope’s invitation fires up the imagination, brings to mind the image of children learning, sometimes awkwardly, to repeat prayers for the first time, the most beautiful image in the world, according to the poet Charles Péguy , or, better, according to God: this is indeed how Charles Péguy imagines him, this French genius of which we recalled a few days ago (in the Italian edition of the newspaper) the hundred and fifty years of his birth. Let us then leave room for the famous passage of his poem The mystery of the Holy Innocentswhich needs no further comment.
“I don’t know anything so beautiful in the whole world, says God. Than a chubby little child, bold as a page, shy as an angel, who says hello twenty times, twenty times good-evening while jumping. And laughing and playing. Once is not enough for him. Far from it. There is no danger. They need it, to say hello and good evening. They never have enough. It’s because for them the twentieth time is like the first. They count like me. This is how I count the hours. And that’s why all eternity and all time is (like) a moment in the palm of my hand.
Nothing is beautiful like a child who falls asleep while praying, says God. I tell you, nothing is so beautiful in the world. I have never seen anything so beautiful in the world. And yet I have seen beauty in the world. And I know about it. My creation is full of beauty. My creation is full of wonders. There are so many that you don’t know where to put them.
I have seen millions and millions of stars rolling under my feet like the sands of the sea. I have seen days burning like flames. Summer days in June, July and August. I have seen winter evenings laid down like a coat. I have seen calm and mild summer evenings like the fall of paradise. All studded with stars. I have seen these hillsides of the Meuse and these churches which are my own homes. And Paris and Reims and Rouen and cathedrals which are my own palaces and my own castles. So beautiful that I will keep them in the sky.
I saw the capital of the kingdom and Rome, the capital of Christianity. I heard mass and triumphant vespers being sung. And I saw these plains and these valleys of France. Who are more beautiful than anything. I saw the deep sea, and the deep forest, and the deep heart of man. I saw hearts devoured with love. For entire lifetimes. Lost charity. Burning like flames. I have seen martyrs so animated by faith hold like a rock on the easel under their iron teeth. (Like a soldier who would stand alone for a lifetime. By faith. For his (apparently) absent general). I have seen martyrs blaze like torches. Thus preparing the evergreen palms. And I saw pearling under the iron claws. Drops of blood that shone like diamonds. And I saw tears of love beading that will last longer than the stars in the sky.
And I saw looks of prayer, looks of tenderness, lost in charity. Which will shine eternally in nights and nights. And I have seen whole lives from birth to death, from baptism to viaticum, unfold like a beautiful skein of yarn.
Now I say it, says God, I know nothing so beautiful in the whole world as a little child who falls asleep while saying his prayer under the wing of his guardian angel. And who laughs ecstatically as he begins to fall asleep. And who already mixes all that together and who no longer understands anything. And who stuffs the words of the Our Father, wrongly and through, pell-mell into the words of the Hail Mary. While a veil already descends on her eyelids. The veil of the night on his gaze and on his voice. I have seen the greatest saints, says God.
Well I tell you. I have never seen anything so funny and therefore I know of nothing so beautiful in the world as this child who falls asleep while saying his prayer (this little being who falls asleep with confidence) and who mixes his Our Father with his Hail Mary. Nothing is so beautiful and this is even a point where the Blessed Virgin is of my opinion. On it. And I can say that this is the only point where we are of the same opinion. Because generally we are of the opposite opinion. Because she is for mercy. And I have to be for justice”.
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At the height of children – L’Osservatore Romano
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