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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

The Eve

This day is one that marks two important events for me. From the modest; the six-month anniversary of this blog, to the paramount; Christmas Eve. However, if you were expecting a missive from me on the meaning of Christmas or how commercialization has turned it into something quite different you’ll be disappointed. Instead I want to talk about relationships—don’t worry, God’s in the mix too, as you’ll see.

On my recent trip to Italy, surely a country that celebrates Christmas with enthusiasm as well as old world gravitas, I happened to witness a lesser event in the small town of Positano—a former fishing village now turned tourist attraction on the Tyrrhenian Sea. The event was the Feast of the Fishes, an annual celebration of the bounty offered up to the fishermen and a petition for another good year ahead. Interestingly, many Italian Americans celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes (Esta dei Siette Pesci) on Christmas Eve, the meal that breaks their communion fast.

Although my knowledge of local custom is limited, the festival consisted of a four-person band costumed in sailor suits playing a somewhat martial air as they followed a beautifully gowned and coiffed woman on stilts and a rotund gent garbed in pantaloons with a feathered hat and brass buttoned tunic looking like a comic admiral from the 18th century. The ensemble moved through the shops and restaurants of Positano stopping at each to deliver with evident good humor a short speech followed by a toast honoring and blessing the local merchants and the people of this village so precariously perched on the limestone cliffs above. I am not sure of the symbolism of the tall lady and the bedecked fellow, but one thing I needed no translation to understand was the great good will extended by and to each individual they encountered. The people of Positano know how to have a good time—they understand that they depend on one another and their bonds extend well beyond even those of family.

Maybe you are starting to see my drift. The people in this town enjoy being with one another, and share their love for one another with all who happen to be in their midst. In short, they know that one of the most important parts of any relationship is to honor and embrace everyone, including and especially strangers; to give of themselves without reserve; and to be lifted up by the good will this occasionally raucous celebration engenders. It should be that way with us too. Our relationships, with friends, family, those we hold closest in love and yes, even strangers, should be celebrated every day with a generous outpouring of affection, joy and sharing. Too often, though, they are not. We are burdened by the events of the day, our jobs, politics, concerns about health, money, and so many other things. In our fretfulness, we lose sight of the joy, the need to celebrate the day and all those we are blessed to have in our lives. How much more we should set aside this Eve—this one day above all others, as a time to reflect on those relationships and the one relationship above all others that matters most; our relationship with God.

I admit it—I love this time of year—the quickening sense of something miraculous about to happen, the chance to catch up with friends and family, the crazy abandon little children have opening presents—the tree decorating, all of it. So much for bashing commercialization. But beyond that, I am filled with a sense of serenity and an awareness of what we celebrate that transcends everything else. And on this day in particular, on the Eve, I am acutely aware of the portentous moment, the imminent arrival of a power of peace and love so great that it cannot be contained by the sacred or profane. Whether you subscribe to a belief in the Christian story or some other is unimportant. God is God. Labels do not apply—his relationship with us is personal and individual and above all it is about his love for us, his children. On this day to come he wants to see us act with crazy abandon too—as we open our hearts and give them as presents to all around us.

Whether we approach every day this way as he would have us do, or in our humanity lapse from time to time, I commend to you all this one moment—this Eve and the day that follows as a time to celebrate with those you know and those you don’t the gift of life he gave us and the capacity for love that defines us as his.

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