Monday, December 1, 2008

Keeping Advent

The blogs I read have been strangely quiet on the tragedy at Walmart this weekend. I suppose there may not be much to say but "Lord have mercy."

In Advent we repent. It is a penitential season, despite the caroling and yuletide cheer. Every time is a season of repentance, though, if you think about it. When do we not have something of which to repent? When are we not something needing repentance?

I know people who don't think about this much, or at all. I write about it, but haven't even started repenting properly. But if you're in need of finding something, think about those who trampled at Walmart.

I know you didn't do it. I know you weren't there. I know that you think you would have rushed to help the person.

But you could have been there. You've felt that mad rush, that compulsion to step on others to get what you want. You've thought that others were no more than obstacles in your path, to be pushed aside.

If you need to repent of something, think about Jdimytai Damour, 34, of Queens.

Lord have mercy.


  1. orrologion said...

    I guess I haven't written or posted anything on it because it seems so obviously of a piece with the consumerism that has devoured Christmas. The typical American Christmas of today actually make me long to be on the Julian Calendar so I can absent myself from all the nonsense (and get better deals). I guess this is heightened due to the fact that I am the only Orthodox in my family and thus spend Christmas services by myself anyway - there is no family (apart from my 3 month old, this year) component to the Christ part of Christmas, which is the part I really long for and like anyway. Everything else is just sort of boring and empty in its 'traditions' - like New Year's or Valentine's Days, like Presidents Memorial and Labor Days. Neither my wife nor her family really celebrate Christmas anymore (they used to go to Christmas Mass, at least, but that stopped after the RC sex abuse scandals and my in-laws' anger at the financial situation they find themselves in - as if God was in charge of balancing their checkbook, but I digress). My parents and grandparents are active churchgoers, but after being Orthodox for 8+ years, their Lutheran services just feel so thin: there is a lot of proclamation, which is good, but not a lot of prayer; and the services are too short for 'real prayer' to have time to kick in. For me. Mileage varies, of course. And both 'short' and 'long' services are in the eyes of the beholders. There is also little real beauty, deep and of a piece with the message, the theology, the understanding of our place in this universe vis a vis God and each other and the events proclaimed. Then again, maybe it is of a piece and I just experience it as 'thin'. Again, that is all subjective in the end.

    But, as removed as I feel from the churchlessness or Lutheranism of my family, I am that much more removed from the consumerism of what seems to so dominate the rest of the culture. I think that's why I don't have any profound thoughts on what this man's death says about America and Christmas - it's not an American or Christmas I have any experience with. It may as well be a story about headhunters in Borneo or click language tribes in the Kalahari. It's both weird and not surprising given their foreignness. Then again, I didn't do a lick of shopping this weekend, so I am obviously not a patriotic American (I'll admit that my wife, and sisters-in-law did, so of which was done in my name).

    I've always sort of liked the idea of getting presents and decorations, etc. the days immediately before the holiday, but I am coming from traditions that understand non-festal preparation for the Feast - more pronounced in Orthodoxy, but not lacking in the Wednesday night Advent services of my Lutheran youth. That being said, my better half once bought a Christmas present the day before the Christmas the year before she was going to present it. That's thinking ahead, and I guess there is some 'preparation' in being that forward thinking. I'm hoping we will get our Christmas tree no earlier than the weekend before Christmas, though I would prefer to get it on Christmas Eve if at all possible and decorate it as a family - our first Christmas as a family of more than just the wife and I, and spent together with all of her family.

    Perhaps if everyone followed such customs (waiting, fasting) there would be less materialism in Christmas. Then again, perhaps we'd just trample people to death the weekend before Christmas instead of the weekend of Thanksgiving.

    Memory eternal to Jdimytai.

  2. orrologion said...

    Of course, that was all assuming I am a blog you read at all regularly. Probably shouldn't make that assumption making a you know what out of, well, really just one of those out of me.

  3. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Thanks for the comment--I enjoyed reading it. And I do read your blog regularly.

    I appreciated your point that "it seems so obviously of a piece with the consumerism that has devoured Christmas." I was thinking too of the Ochlophobist when I wrote this and read your response. I suppose all one could do is point and say "Quod erat demonstrandum."

    "Thin" is an interesting word. It reminds me of some of my posts awhile back criticizing minimalism in Lutheranism. Someone criticized me about that, suggesting "less is more."

    It's not just about aesthetics and subjectivism, though. While there is a certain aesthetic enjoyment in form following function and the spareness of things, I don't think people really like it. We certainly don't celebrate that way. Nor did our Creator make that way (or given your recent postings on evolution, did He retain creation that way). We don't have "dog creature" and "cat creature", but we have dogs, hyenas, coyotes, wolves, and foxes; cats, lynx, bobcat, cougars, panthers and tigers.

    I digress. I appreciate your slumming over with this Lutheran and I pray for your family--especially your wife that she may join you and Jasper at liturgy.

  4. Preachrboy said...

    The incident has been on my mind, and might end up in this Sunday's sermon, as the texts, especially the 2 Peter text, direct us to consider the idea of patience.

    Our impatience, God's patience... something like that, anyway.