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Nolde’s “Heilige Nacht” (1912)

Mary’s long white armslift the baby high above her head.He is seated in her palms, a pose precarious—his head droops, an eerie portent of the cross. Through the open doorway shepherds mosey closer with their crooks. The mule slobbers grain from the trough. Blue shadows ring Joseph’s eyes. . . . . Continue Reading »


He scrubbed the trough and filled it with fresh hay.The midnight sky was bright and hard and raw; The constellations danced above cold clay. That night the heavens put on a displayThat froze wise man and shepherd mute with awe.He scrubbed the trough and filled it with fresh hay And wondered how long . . . . Continue Reading »

On the Incarnation

The following is a homily that was given at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.: Dear friends in Christ, a warm welcome to all who join the Dominican friars on this Christmas morning to rejoice in the “marvelous exchange—O admirabile commercium—[by which] man’s Creator has . . . . Continue Reading »

Christmas and a World Upside-Down

Biblical scholars generally agree that Luke’s Gospel was written at least a generation later than Paul’s first letter to the Christians at Corinth. Yet whatever the dating, and irrespective of scholarly disputes about whether “Luke,” the author of the eponymous Gospel and the Acts of the . . . . Continue Reading »

The Nativity of Our Lord

He was born into the silence of this world. Because there was no room for him in a proper house the night he was born, the Gospel of Luke reports, he was born of his mother with Joseph nearby out there in the stable with the animals. Probably there was no one interested. That was the silence of that night. Who would care, anyway? Just one more peasant child, and who celebrates or notices or marks the birth of yet another peasant arriving in this world? Have you ever heard a prayer of thanks for the children born in a United Nations refugee camp? The children of peasants are always born into silence. Continue Reading »

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