Tuesday 24 September 2019

Editorial: 'Golden Light of Christmas shines down the millennia'

The chamber at Newgrange is illuminated on the winter solstice
The chamber at Newgrange is illuminated on the winter solstice


This week a small pencil of golden light illuminated the chamber in Newgrange, reminding us of a miracle of ingenuity; a gift from our ancestors 5,000 years ago.

Then as now, it was celebrated as a triumph over darkness. In the depths of an Irish winter, we take our victories where we find them.

It is extraordinary to think, without the aid of telescopes or computers millennia ago, a monument to bring what they saw as the very light of heaven, could be built with such precision; and all this time later, people come from around the world to witness its wonder.

All over the world the coming of the light is captivated in the Christmas story: the birth of a newborn bringing joy to a weary, troubled world.

The Capuchin monks who opened their doors before first light on Dublin's Church Street yesterday to give out the first of their food hampers had no time to think how 2,000 years after the most famous exclusion in history there is still no room at the inn.

The long queues snaking along the street made sure they were too busy trying to look after the needs of those who may have nothing in the cupboard, to ask such questions. Yet they hang over our capital: Why are the interventions of the diminutive Brother Kevin Crowley more necessary this Christmas than they were five decades ago, when he opened a soup kitchen?

It has been said that out of suffering emerges the strongest souls.

There is no better example of this than Vicky Phelan, who has campaigned so heroically for others while battling her own quiet agonies. Without wishing to, she has become an inspirational figure for the country. She's recognised as a towering figure, having been raised rather than reduced by pain.

It was this time last year Vicky's nightmare began, but she kept it to herself so as not to ruin Christmas for her children.

Sometimes the light comes from without and sometimes a phosphorescence can be recognised within.

In literature, no one captures the season like Charles Dickens. In a 'Christmas Carol' he wrote: "I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round - apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that - as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time. The only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journey."

For those who know their 'Bible', the first Christmas celebration was when the angels visited startled shepherds on a mountainside.

Whether it is in the stars, or in the magic of a child's eyes, there is a special luminosity found at this time of year. Be it in the Christmas we celebrate, or in the delicate beams that first raised spirits on a hill in Co Meath 5,000 years ago, that something special is a thing to behold.

Irish Independent

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