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Thank Heaven (literally) It's Sunday
What a week! First came the Christmas-less Christmas (what happened to the traditional singing of "The Messiah"?). Then came more of the same, only more so: New Year and a new millennium around the globe. Americans could follow it thanks to Peter Jennings, the anchor for some rather stupid women reporting from different capitals, interrupted by equally stupid commercials. Those of us blessed with SCOLA had a healthier, more varied fare.
It was really very tedious. Everywhere mobs hopping, shouting and drinking, while the same flashy fireworks and searchlights marred the beauty of the heavens. The ugliest site was the last, Times Square in New York, while Paris, once known as la ville lumière, claimed that an international poll voted that its display had been the best in the world. Much of the population of France sat in the dark because of the storm; what was the reaction to the extravagant display of light in the capital? No one took a poll.
Fate hinted at its judgment. The machinery on the dazzling Eiffel Tower, which had been tested for a hundred days, failed just before midnight and the planned countdown. The crowd hooted, and then went on drinking. A feature of the London celebration was a huge ferris wheel. That too failed to function for some obscure reason. Meanwhile the stars continued on their solemn paths, scorning all this human folly. Then reality returned when, on Saturday, all around the world, garbage collectors collected thousands of tons of trash, including mountains of bottles. Perhaps a literate garbage man was muttering to himself: "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Then, thank God, came today, Sunday. At 3 a.m. the miracle of TV miraculously took me to Santiago de Chile, where it was 6 a.m. and mass was beginning to celebrate the Epiphany. It was a beautiful, dignified, service. The priest impressed me as being a kind, decent, bright individual, like Pope John Paul II, but younger. The attractive choir sang beautifully, and the congregation, including many children, were well-mannered and devote. It restored my faith in the dignity of man.
Epiphany has a special meaning, especially in Spanish-speaking countries, where one of the Three Wise Men is black. It represents the coming together of mankind in common respect for the best in humanity, embodied in the Holy Family, represented by a beautiful nacimiento (manger scene).
Another example of the decline in the sense of human dignity was a cartoon I had just seen, poking fun at the Three Wise Men. Admittedly it was not in as bad taste as a photograph in the San Francisco press last Good Friday, showing some businessmen posing as the Last Supper and enjoying the fun.
You do not have to accept the Christian story. Equally moving was a service in the Bahai temple just north of Chicago. It is simply a question of human dignity and deep feeling for each other, of which the festivities marking the end of the last millennium were a tawdry and expensive imitation. Buy the real thing.
Ronald Hilton - 1/2/00