Merry Christmas, my dear readers! (And no, it’s not belated: Christmas is an octave lasting until the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on January 1st–also a holy day of obligation.) I’m on hiatus for a little longer, but I wrote the post linked to below for Beneath the Tangles’ Twelve Days of Christmas Anime series. The post is essentially a meditation on how episode six of Re-Kan! reminds me of what God wished to accomplish in sending Christ to Earth. I manage to quote G. K. Chesterton and my patron saint, St. Leo the Great, in this post–both of whom have written very eloquently on Christmas.
May all my dear readers be enjoying a happy Advent season! This week marks our final week to prepare for the great celebration of Christmas. Buy those presents, decorate your abode, participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, meditate with wonder on the Incarnation, show extra kindness and patience, and, first and foremost, be joyful! Buying presents for those near and dear to us in itself helps make us happy as we look forward to the smile on their faces. Many people complain about the spirit of commercialism that runs through Christmas, but this applies mostly to businesses and may easily be avoided as long as we don’t focus on buying things for ourselves. When else do so many people spend so much of their time and treasure in order to bring a smile to other people’s faces?
During some years, however, people can get wrapped up in various misfortunes–suffering, sickness, over-absorbing work, stress, worry, financial strain, death of loved ones, etc., which prevent us from entering into the spirit of joy, love, wonder, generosity, and peace that is Christmas. Also, like me, your environs might show none of the expected hallmarks of the season. Nothing says Christmas as much as seeing a panoply of Christmas lights and decorations against a snowy background. Without snow, it is incredibly difficult for me to think about the holiday. Snow always brings to mind the following verses, which describe Christ’s mission: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
Without the aid of the environment, song provides the best avenue for entering into the spirit of the season. But, Christmas music, which begins mid-November, has lost its charm by this time. What was intended to bring us into the joy of the holiday now annoys us. I’ve discovered a trick this year: if English Christmas music bores you, you might simply listen to other countries’ Christmas music. They convey the same joy and sound fresh even if we’ve already heard the English version of a song one hundred times. ( Zvončići sounds great even though I don’t want to hear Jingle Bells until next year.) Check out any of the playlists below. Croatian, German, and Latin are my favorite languages for Christmas music.
Finally, Lord Drako Arakis has combined several fine Christmas songs with pictures drawn in the anime style. Their selection of Christmas music is great and much cleaner than many of his other pieces. I have picked through the following songs, but have a care if you explore his channel! Enjoy!
If you want to hear a sad and touching song, you can listen to the following:
Also, an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:
The first time this movie came to my knowledge was during junior year of high school. The disease known as otakuism just infected me through Inuyasha and Rurouni Kenshin. The magazine Anime Insider became my second favorite monthly publication after American Hunter. (Due to our father never taking my brother and I shooting, Anime Insider soon became my first. That which one can realize is ever superior to that which one must dream about!) When the new issue of Anime Insider was released, the most important task of the day was to absorb all the material it contained from the Editor’s Letter to the Parting Shot; though, I confess that The Death of the Month was my favorite recurrent feature. Around this time, the magazine must have praised Tokyo Godfathers. And so, I recommended to my father that we watch this movie. (He had become interested in anime through Vampire Hunter D, Princess Mononoke, and Rurouni Kenshin.) However, the inclusion of a transvestite among the main characters caused him to strike down this recommendation. Being an obedient child, I decided that this was sufficient cause never to watch this movie myself.
After ten years of hearing praise concerning this film, I included it among the choices for the present series, “10 Days to 300.” A part of me was surprised that it made it to the #1 spot in the poll, but after watching the film, I can see why so many people love this movie. The presence of the transvestite bothered me a little at first until I accepted the character as he was. Hana is the highest minded of the three characters, which is shown by his knowledge of Dostoyevsky and predilection for composing haiku on the fly.
The thing which surprised me most about he movie was the degree of action it contained. Gin, the bearded protagonist, remarks that he’s no action movie hero. Naturally, he later features in some of the hairiest situations in the film. As expected, the film probed human nature, had great characters, and featured excellent comedy. Miyuki, the runaway, gives some of the best laughs. Aya Okamoto does a superb job voicing her, which makes it a shame that she has not done any other anime roles and seems to have retired from acting after Metro ni Notte (2006).
Overall, the film stands as a great work. It earns high marks for its story and characters, each of whom has an interesting story about how they wound up on the streets. Themes of family and forgiveness run throughout–important for a country which seems to dislike the positive use of the verb yurusu “to forgive.” These themes were rendered yet more touching by the action being set on Christmas. Also interesting is the theme of Providence–that Kiyoko is especially blessed by God. I must say that the climax of the movie and that Gin’s relationship with her causes him to come into possession of two bottles of Hennessy V.S.O.P. certainly prove it!
If any of my readers have not seen this film, I recommend them to do so–nevermind Hana!
Merry Christmas! Natale Christi Hilare! Καλα Χριστουγεννα! Joyeux Noël! And since this is an anime blog, I cannot forget:
My father gave me a beautiful Pelikan Fountain Pen this year. I almost broke the thing before I figured out its unusual design: it does not take cartridges, but uses the end of the pen as an extractor. Attached to it was some blood red ink, fittingly named after the bloodiest day of the Civil War–Antietam. I also received a brilliant translation of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Catena Aurea (The Golden Chain), in which he compiled the Church Father’s commentaries on the Gospels. A beautiful work! I might also mention the other nice gifts I received, but they are a little less relevant to the blog.
But, Christmas is more than gifts; though, one might say that God bestowed on us the ultimate gift at Christmas: Himself. Joy attaches itself into the season, which I found difficult to enter into both this year and last year. (I think that article marks me as a stick in the mud, but oh well.) My Christmas felt more red than green, you might say. This year, I found it easier to get in the spirit of the holiday. (I hope the introduction of this article makes that clear!) But, I confess that I rather needed to work myself up for it: cheerfulness is a virtue rather than something which comes naturally.
Anyway, the life of a believer hardly counts as all rainbows and sunshine. One must often find joy in carrying the cross, by which we are drawn closer to Christ Jesus. One might even need to find joy while the horrifying idea that God has abandoned one crushes the soul.
Yet, we must keep in mind that God died for us. He loved us first and chose us to be in paradise with Him forever. We did not first choose Him, but He chose us knowing beforehand all our flaws and sins. And He came down to earth and accepted not only of the ordinary sufferings of human life but also unfathomable suffering and isolation to redeem us. He suffered all this to free us from slavery to sin so that we might become His friends for all eternity. This desire of God stands unchangeable as God Himself. Thinking about God’s Eternal Love cannot but make one cheer: “Merry Christmas!”
Well, this blog has been full of the Christmas spirit, hasn’t it? To tell you the truth, I think that sweetpea616 succeeded more in immersing herself in the Christmas spirit than I did–and she’s pagan! At any rate, I think that it will be worthwhile to write about how suffering relates to the holiday of Christmas.
I can already hear someone asking: “How can suffering possibly relate to such a joyous holiday? What a morbid, moribund, and melancholy person!” (And I can tell that this speaker does not know me personally.) But do not forget that the colors green and red symbolize the Christmas holiday. Green obviously symbolizes rebirth and renewal–and how did Christ accomplish our rebirth? By pouring out His red blood on the Cross. Verily, He was born in order to die. We Christians celebrate the Invincible Love of God in sending His only Son so that Jesus Christ would redeem us through a painful death upon a cross and give us new life by His Resurrection. In the same way, Christians are baptized into the Passion of Christ and reborn into His Resurrection. Since “the disciple is not above his master” (Lk 6:40), we must suffer many things and courageously bear the cross God gives us so that we may be steadily transformed into the image of Christ until we reach that perfection which God has destined for us in Paradise.
The Church calendar seems to reinforce the idea of suffering even in the midst of this joyful time of year: the day after Christmas we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Stephan, the feast of the Holy Innocents today, and tomorrow recalls the murder of St. Thomas à Becket. Only St. John the Evangelist seems not to fit in until we remind ourselves that he suffered a white martyrdom. How could it be otherwise? In support of this idea, we have all the suffering John endured in spreading the Gospel and his gospel itself, which enters more fully into the divinity of Christ than any other gospel. John’s gospel evidences his suffering because no one can understand God so fully without meditating on and participating in Christ’s sufferings daily. How much grief must have filled St. John’s soul in recalling those three interminable hours at the foot of the Savior’s cruel cross? To always have before his eyes the visible memory of Christ’s wounds and the sorrowful last words of Christ ringing in his ears? And on the thirtieth, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family: after Christ’s whose sorrows are meditated on more frequently or were more severe than St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s? These two saints have more glory in heaven than all the rest because they both played a larger role in Salvation History and suffered more greatly than all the other saints combined.
So, suffering, doubts, anxiety, grief, and pain do not seem out of place this time of year. In my case, I lack a certain talent to suffer–if I may call it so. Suffering has the propensity to make us focus inward, to disregard the people around us, and overly seek consolations for oneself–anything to cause us to forget or diminish our pain or angst. But, the talent or skill which one should strive to attain is to ignore our miserable condition and manifest joy to the world–especially around Christmas.
The most memorable scene from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, the meeting of Jesus and His Mother on the Way of the Cross, demonstrates this attitude perfectly. What does Our Lord say to His Mother? After being insulted and beaten constantly, being mocked, unjustly condemned, scourged, crowned with thorns, and even to this point being shown every form of contempt and disdain? “Behold, I make all things new.” This carries the idea that Christ’s attention was focused mainly or even purely on the good his sacrifice would do humanity rather than all the evils humanity was pouring on him–even though these sins pierced His Heart like the crown of thorns did His Brow. Rather than indicate any pain, He joyfully boasts of the salvation He brings to the human race. For, not even an ocean of sin can extinguish the Love of God.
Remember what the red and green symbolize when you look next time at a Christmas wreath. There is joy because Our Savior has come to restore the human race; on the other hand, He restores it through His Sorrowful Passion. Neither pain or sorrow is out of place in this holiday nor ought one to forget the Passion of Our Lord in this or any season. So, one must rejoice in spite of suffering, since Christ has come to save poor sinners–us–and these very sufferings, especially when we strive to suffer with love, bring us closer to Christ. This quote from G. K. Chesterton seems appropriate here: “He is a sane man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.”
It seems that everyone except me is busy posting this time of year. (The certain result of my lazy nature.) I don’t know where I’ll find the time to read them all. At any rate, I’d like to share a page on Padre Pio which I found recently. It has more pictures than I thought possible of this great saint as well as several amusing stories. I confess that sometimes when I’m feeling particularly down, seeing Padre Pio often brightens my day. It makes me wish we had photographs of more great saints, and wonder how great a consolation it would be if we even had one photograph of Our Lord.
Anyway, I got to work on a paper now. Hopefully, I’ll have an anime article up by this evening.