"Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it."
This quote has been attributed to Jorge Santayanaa, a philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist who lived in Spain in the 19th and early 20th century. In its original form the quote stated, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ I am not a proponent of the view as history, in my basic view, cannot repeat itself. Repetition means that the same thing has to happen over and over again and unfortunately that cannot happen in history. If we look at the first and second world wars they are similar in their names but not in much else. The type of war was different. Trench warfare was the norm in World War I whereas the Second World War was one of “Blitzkreig” or “lightening war.” Also the causes are different. One of the important causes of World War II was World War I. Finally the allies were different. Germany did fight against Russia, Britain, France and the USA, but Japan and Italy fought on the Allies side against Germany. Instead I follow the view that has been attributed to Mark Twain that, “History does not repeat itself but it certainly does rhyme.”
What has this got to do with my Christmas Message? One of the most important symbols of Christmas is the Nativity scene with baby Jesus in the manger, Mary, the Shepherds, the Three Kings and, of course, the animals. This is part of Sacred Tradition that is very important to Catholics.
The origin of the Nativity scene goes back to the days of Giovanni Bernardone in 13th century Italy. Giovanni is better known to us as St. Francis of Assisi. There are a few reasons why he set up the scene. Firstly, after a visit to Bethlehem he decided to portray the baby Jesus as He was on the first Christmas. His aim was to help people become aware of the hardships a newborn child must endure and how he was placed in a manger along with the animals. The Saviour of mankind had only His parents and shepherds from the surrounding hills for company. The second reason is that St. Francis believed that the Nativity scene would be a visual reminder of what Christmas was about. This is where the idea of historical repetition or rhyme comes to the fore. We tend to think of commercialism and materialism as a modern phenomenon. However it was alive and well in Medieval Italy. The display was created to be a counter to a growing emphasis on materialism and gift-giving prevalent in the wealthy city states of Florence, Venice and Milan in the 13th century.
We too live in an era of materialism with a greater emphasis on “stuff” as opposed to the needs of our fellow human beings or celebrating the birth of Christ. This is well illustrated by the expansion of “ Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday”. Traditionally they were American phenomenon but now they have spread to Canada and across the world to France, Australia, Hong Kong and, even Pope Francis’, Argentina.
So as we go into the season of Christmas let’s not repeat the past by emphasising the commercial aspect of Christmas. Instead remember that Jesus was a King born in a manger and grew up to die on the cross for our sins. The Nativity scene is our visual reminder of that.
I'Taamomohkatoyiiksistsikomi Ngand Nwi Lam
Nollaig Shona Dhuit Feliz Navidad Joyeux Noel
Maligayang Pasko Miet puou yan dhiedh Banyda tene Yin