Going Round in Circles

We have a charming little mobile which we keep with the Christmas decorations: five angels with trumpets. Light the tea light and off they go, four going round and round and one spinning round on the top, obviously angels don’t get dizzy. Sometimes, if they weren’t so well packed or got dropped, they need a bit of aerodynamic tweaking or reconstruction, but then they are ‘in flight’ again. They spend the Christmas season going round and round on one of the tables in our refectory (dining room).

Some parents probably feel that their house is full of children spending the Christmas holiday going round and round in circles with trumpets—and some of us probably feel a bit too circular after eating our way through Christmas.

As Benedictine communities, the cycle of the liturgical seasons is an important part of our life. If you have been to our chapel, it is open to the public, you may have noticed that the wall hanging isn’t always the same, that’s because it matches the different liturgical seasons. The time leading up to Christmas, known as ‘Advent’, is at the beginning of the liturgical year. Advent Sunday, the liturgical ‘New Year’s Day’ is always at the end of November or the beginning of December.

I don’t recall reading anywhere in the Bible about angels going round in circles, but angels seem to have been the first to celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. The shepherds who witnessed the celebration must have had quite a surprise, St John Chrysostom (347–407) shared his thoughts about it in a homily:–

Strange and wonderful is the mystery I behold. In my ears rings the sound of shepherds, not piping a lonely melody but chanting a heavenly hymn. Angels carol, archangels celebrate with song and dance, the cherubim sing hymns, the seraphim give praise, all of them keeping festival as they contemplate God on earth and our nature in heaven. By divine decree he who dwells on high is now here below; by God’s love those who dwell below are raised on high.
Bethlehem today is like heaven: instead of stars it has welcomed angels praising God. Everyone is leaping for joy so I too want to leap for joy, I want to dance, I want to join the festival; but as I dance I do not pluck the lyre, nor carry pipes, nor kindle torches. Instead of musical instruments I bear Christ’s swaddling clothes, for they are my hope, my life, my salvation, they are my pipe and my lyre. Carrying them I come, that endowed with eloquence by their virtue I may say with the angels, Glory to God in the highest, and with the shepherds, Peace to his people on earth.

So, let’s all join in the celebrations, give glory to God—and pray for peace on earth! (With or without trumpets.)

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