I would like to wish everyone who follows the old calendar a lovely Christmas Eve today and a very merry Christmas tomorrow.
For those on the new calendar, may you have a blessed Epiphany today.
It is fitting to offer something mirthful on the feast, but I give you rather something sadly humorous. Last week, I found Eric Metaxas’ “Does Anyone in the Media Ever Read the Bible?” on Fox News. Metaxas recounts various episodes of shocking biblical illiteracy, including a remarkable example from George Whitman’s obituary in The New York Times:
“[George] welcomed visitors with large-print messages on the walls. ‘Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise,’ was one, quoting Yeats.”
Yeats!? Did you catch that? I choked on my toast. Did the Times actually just say that “Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise” was from Yeats? Unless I had fallen down a rabbit hole, that quote was from the Bible. It’s from Hebrews 13:2 and it’s quite famous. If you didn’t catch it, don’t feel too badly, because you are probably not The New York Times. You are probably not America’s “paper of record”, proud owner of 106 Pulitzer Prizes in Journalism—more than any other newspaper. You probably don’t have squadrons of fact-checkers on your payroll.
I still couldn’t believe what I’d just read, so I kept reading, looking for some explanation. There was none. I then shook the paper to make sure I was reading an actual newspaper, and not, say, an email forward from an aged friend. Nope. This really was the New York Times, the Old Grey Lady, whose motto was “All the News that’s Fit to Print.” And let’s face it, if W.B. Yeats was the real author of the Bible’s “Book of Hebrews,” that really would be big news!
I often express to family and friends how surprised I am by widespread scriptural ignorance, especially in the young. Even Protestant youngsters are clueless. It is no wonder that apostasy is so rampant. Christian parents are failing miserably to raise their children in the faith.
The world is going to hell in a handbasket, but let me rescue this post from too much despair—or at least philistine despair. To tie together the feasts celebrated today, East and West, with the hallowed inspiration of the Irish Bard, here is “The Magi”:
Now as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary’s turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.
To mix further the sacred and the profane, I wonder if Yeats’ poem was one of the inspirations for U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
In any case, merry Christmas! Christ is born!