(Not-Quite-Sunday) Catechism: Don’t Kill on Christmas


Q: What does the sixth commandment forbid?

A: The sixth commandment forbids taking one’s own life or the lives of others unjustly or doing anything that leads to suicide or murder.

Why is Christmas so often so fraught? We often go to these family gatherings wracked with anxiety, approach the morning with as much dread as hope, lose all perspective on a day of perspective-taking. This blessed day has a way of reminding us not only of God’s surprising stroke of intervention, but also our desperate need for it.

It is a problem we constantly face with the Law: as we try to rise to its heights, we face the vertigo of its stakes and the unrelenting winds of its demands. It draws a sharp line across the way things ought to be and the way things are. And we are what we are.

Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

The Lord’s advent, acquiescence, and ascent, however, gives us freedom. Freedom to fail. And power to succeed. Gestures that rang with doom now translate to the hope of heaven.

I leave you with Tennyson’s encouragement:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
    The flying cloud, the frosty light:
    The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
    Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
    The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
    For those that here we see no more;
    Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
    And ancient forms of party strife;
    Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
    The faithless coldness of the times;
    Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
    The civic slander and the spite;
    Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
    Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
    Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
    The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
    Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

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