Christmas works

Our series of three, on working xmas, begins HERE.

…There is a cold breeze outside the car, though nothing moves but a plastic rag knotted on a tree limb — the tree one of those slender naked beauties above the car. Just so light, the rag floats on an otherwise nonexistent breath available to any eye passing or peeping out the nursing home window. I’m parked below the Church between it and the nursing home, waiting for Mass to begin. I don’t recall ever being in a Catholic Church before.

All over New England, in old once-successful mill towns, one finds these astonishing structures in brick or stone. One day this granite mass before me will be christened a basilica. Now it is a reminder that those coming across the border, the French-Canadian immigrants, gave unstintingly out of a bounty of labor not well-paid. For these workers, especially, often were not well treated… and in Yankee communities they were often despised.


Stirring on the radio is Handel’s Messiah, rousing me to meaning, revealing this day as a reminder of something that hasn’t happened in my sight. It’s another working day to me, to my spouse, to other paper mill workers and those in the nursing home opposite doing the nursing.

Two gray-haired women approach a pale yellow car, one of them unlocking it. The rag has stopped lifting, momentarily caught on a twig. A man with tapping cane also comes up to the car, goes to the passenger door, front, and carefully climbs in. The woman in the driver’s seat starts the car and they pull out. A torn end of plastic rag drifts out a little. The rich mellow and sad feminine voice sings, “He was despised;” and “He hid not his face from shame and spitting.”

The structures across the way–the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul–have my attention. Everything is formed from rock, rock that soars up out of a base of fixed chaos, grading into strong and strengthening regularity; thence into a yet more precise form of buttressing, towers and spires, sharp points piercing the sky. “He was despised… rejected.”

Then, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows….”

This structuring cries out to be photographed, drawn, painted. It cries out to be an image. And it is. It is the mightiest image going here in this old mill town. So much so it has drawn me out of the sleep of a household in rural mountains to descend into the city simply to look up at it on Christmas Day.

I’m not Catholic, I’ve never been to Mass. But I am here and will enter into the stone image of might and belief solely because, as I look up at the rocky lawn, strewn with the shadows of naked trees, it seems like the thing to do.

Below this church is a matrix or “chaos of rock” noticed in this entry. solid granite bedrock unearthed by glacier.

Worshippers are arriving.  There will be more about this working Christmas next year!

May yours be a good Christmas. May there be light of a certain quality. But not too much light. ☆

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