POET'S CORNER by Jeff Hartzer
#019: December, 2005
Away in a Manger
With little choice of my own doing, I was born into the Roman Catholic Church with the help of staunch Catholic parents. My Catholic faith over the years has hit the highs and lows typical of any full blown Wall Street graph, complete with some Ups and many Downs. You just can’t be a p-o-e-t and not swim against the mainstream from time to time.
However, this month PopeBenedict XVI has made some comments that I agree with. The Pope claims that Christmas Festivities are too ‘polluted’ with consumerism. Where’d he get that crazy idea? He suggests that assembling a Nativity scene in our homes (or yards I might add) is an effective way to bring alive the more spiritual aspects of ‘the Holidays’.
In Rome there is an annual blessing of Nativity figures by the Pope. In our town, there is an annual blessing of Our Lady of Guadalupe centered around figures of Mary set in people’s yards. Many ‘Midnight Masses’ in the Enchanted Land begin with a knock on the front door signifying Joseph and Mary looking for a room. We all have memories of ‘Christmas time’ (whether we call it by that name or not). Many of my own memories revolve around ‘manger scenes’. I played ‘Joseph’ in an elementary school play. I recall the smell of the live trees set inside our Church around a manger. I recall a large manger scene at the Catholic Hospital where I waited for my brother to be born.
At our AirDance ArtSpace on Isleta, we are happy to have as neighbors two burros named ‘Poco’ and ‘Mama’. Mama is a light grey burro with the an amazingly perfect geometric cross ‘painted’ in black on her back (where Jesus would’ve sat atop one of her distant relatives on ‘Palm Sunday’). Rarely do I see these two burros or hear their ecstatic breying without a thought of the ‘manger’.
Away in a Manger is a simple hymn that tells a humble tale. Originally published in 1885 in a Lutheran Sunday school book, the author is believed to be John T. McFarland (1851-1913). The music was composed by William J. Kirkpatrick in 1895.
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle til morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.
Though you may not see me in Church on Sundays, I think the Pope makes a good point. We should all sleep with burros for one night a year! Blessings of the Season to you.
Jeff Hartzer copyright 2005