Sunday, November 22, 2015

Living "underneath the mountain" at Christmas

By Michael J Morris
As Good  King Wenceslas walks with his page, "a poor man came in sight, Gathering winter fuel." The page tells him that this man lives "underneath the mountain."
Now, the popular Christmas carol 'Good King Wenceslas' addresses a subject that I never thought much about as a child growing up in a small village in Northern Ontario. I had my family, friends and a community where people cared about and helped each other in times of need.
In the first part of the carol King Wenceslas looked out and saw the snow with the moon shining bright in about the year 1000, and he could have been describing the weather on almost any Christmas Eve in any Canadian community.
He suggests it was a beautiful Winter night and it probably was, one with which most of us who have spent our lives in Canada can easily relate.
Music was an important part of our home, and that's how I became acquainted with King Wenceslas as a boy.
It became the carol that to me applied most to the weather at Christmas time. Looking outside before leaving for Christmas Eve service, "the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even. Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel..."
Before I go any further with King Wenceslas, I only recently discovered that he was not really a king, but the Duke of Bohemia, and he was looking out on the Feast of St Stephen, the day after Christmas. 
To me it doesn't really matter as the carol brings back fond memories and delivers a message that applies to this day - across this vast and magnificent land, there are people living "underneath the mountain."
I have spent Christmas in other Canadian communities, and no matter where I have been, it seems Good King Wenceslas was my theme song. The lyrics were published in 1853 by the English hymn writer John Mason Neale.
But I have to admit that it is only in recent years that I have reflected more on the real message.
There they are, the King and his page and "a poor man came in sight, Gathering winter fuel." The page tells him that this man lives "underneath the mountain."
On Christmas Eve those many years ago, as we greeted people on the street who were going to or coming from their respective churches, I never really thought about those who may be homeless and without food--- living underneath the mountain, so to speak.
The good King took immediate action though telling his page to gather food and wine and pine logs that they would take to the peasant and see him dine,"through the rude wind's wild lament, And the bitter weather."
The page was ready to give up as the night grew darker and wind blew stronger, but the King encouraged him and they made it to their destination.
Here is the message in the last words from 'Good King Wenceslas', "Therefore ... be sure, Wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor, Shall yourselves find blessing."
As many of you know, especially my former students, I love metaphor and have been collecting them all my life. I hope I have not mixed them too badly as I have talked about the Good King Wenceslas.
My thoughts also turn to all those good people, who have shared some moments of their lives with me, past and present, in so many communities across our country. 
I hope all of us will take a moment from our busy schedules of the holiday season to, in some way, bless the poor, and therein, find blessing. 

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