The old myth of Christmas, through its images, tells us something great. More often than we suppose, every day perhaps, a son of the Spirit comes into the world between an ox and an ass. His mother, a simple soul, and his father, a little uncouth, adore the tiny king they have created. Nothing on earth is more divine than a son of the centuries who is born young, not a line on his forehead, not a cloud in his eyes. If he grows up between the ox and the ass, without lying to himself, behold an architect of justice. See him walk on the earth; in his eyes, mirrors of the world, men and things are ordered in their true relationships.
He is not yet fifteen years old and already he surprises and frightens the learned. A single word of his goes further than their books, which is because he looks at things, while they look only at books. And already they are plotting against him, to kill this agitator. But in the meantime they have to give way before this youthful force, which thinks before speaking; because the people are listening. The people recognise their son and king, and give him a triumphant welcome. As light dissipates shadows, so Truth takes the place of Falsehood, without a struggle, by its presence alone. The bonds of injustice are loosened, as it is only a conjuror’s knot that ties the labour of some to the power of others; it’s only a matter of seeing, instead of fearing and hoping; the knot has to be untied, not shaken; the slaves are already stretching out their limbs on their beds; the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame are about to walk.
At this point the story becomes obscure. We know that the lame didn’t walk, but why not? It’s said that the Son of the Spirit was crucified. Not at all. I recognised him yesterday; he had a worried forehead, and eyes cold with age; pride, ambition, avarice had etched bitter creases around his lips. He wore the royal robes, the crown and the sceptre; the poor still believed in him but he no longer believed in himself. What sophist had finally trapped him, what false wisdom had entered into him, what letter of the law had killed his spirit, what devil had carried him off to what mountain, offered him which kingdoms, which terrestrial love had corrupted his celestial love, what feebleness of the heart had obscured his alert intelligence, what error had led him from mistake to mistake until he despaired of himself and finally forgot himself — none of this is easy to know. Ordinary people don’t look so far; they say that the Child-God died at the age of thirty-three.
Translation copyright Michel Petheram