“What Child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?” And so we sing reverently during Christmastide to the rather haunting melody of Greensleeves.
While the melody dates back to the 16th century, and words, to the late 19th century, we still cherish the song in the 21st. That’s a pretty good record. The Christmas crèche dates back, we are told, to the time of St. Francis of Assisi in the 12th century. So lots of the old to relish here. At the academy we have many very old things (for us Americans, 19th century is very old) that we carried from 5th St., Covington, in 1963. Among them and relating to Christmas is an image of the Infant Jesus. This one, probably dating to the early 20th century, was the favorite of Sr. Mary Agnetis, the first principal of NDA as a high school (1906-1946). Anyone knowing Sister and looking at the Infant can imagine Sister’s reaction to it—it so embodies the side of her shown frequently in her gracious responses to others. Today the image seems saccharine sweet, but in its day it signified popular and sincere devotion.
As said above, many old things were carried from the “old” academy. At least two sets of crèche figures are in storage during the year. Currently, one is in the large display case in the entrance foyer, waiting for the Infant to be placed in the crib.
And so we wait, as Advent bids, for the coming of Christ at Christmas, his birthday. While we know that for us that should mean a readiness to meet Christ as he comes to us daily, perhaps in the guise of an infant, but in all kinds of guises, some not very appealing. Advent then stretches our faith, just as the crèche images may. Advent—a call to faith, a call to accept Christ in the many ways he comes to us.