When a baby is first born one is pure – purified by the ordeal one has passed through. One has no enemies. One loves the world and feels that the world loves in return. A new world has been born with the child – in which there is no hate or evil, no greed or fear. One understands why Christ came as a newborn child.
And in this world one cannot be afraid or angry or take life. I felt I could not touch meat or kill a fly. The divinity of life, freshly revealed after closeness to death, is manifested everywhere – even in flies. They too, as Virgil once said of the bees, bear “ the delicate gift of life.”
But a day comes when one looks at a child coming to the breast, with his two fists clenched in front of him, and one realizes what a struggle it is – Life. The child is struggling to live.
And a day comes when one sees the flies no longer as a manifestation of the divinity of life but as bearers of evil from the outside world. One realizes that they must not touch the child; they threaten his life. One is afraid, and one kills them – with satisfaction.
And so one is weaned away from the vision of a new world, a perfect world – in fact, an impossible world. For vision must always be translated into life, must be clothed in the imperfection of flesh. The child must be protected, fed, and taught to go out into the world that holds struggle and pain and evil, fear and hate and greed.
This renewal of vision, expressed in our humility before the newborn child, or in our traditional worship of a child at Christmas, is not a proof of a perfect world to come. The world is imperfect and probably always will be. No, it is simply a token of the validity of man’s desire for a better world and – more than his desire – his capacity for making it so. It is a token of certain human qualities; humility, compassion, purity, too often locked away in careful cupboards of the heart, brought out like special candles only to light the nursery or the Christmas tree, when they might illumine the whole dark everyday world. It is perhaps man’s unconscious calling up of these qualities, an exhortation to himself, an invocation to his God – a promise and a prayer at the same time. In this age when men have almost forgotten how to pray, it might be called prayer in a hidden form.
For what is that moment of involuntary silence in front of the newborn child? What is that moment of unexpected silence at Christmas, sometimes after the last silver-thin note of an old carol, or before children standing with the awkward reverence of early Gothic shepherds, in a schoolroom crèche? What is that silence if it is not man’s heart crying out voicelessly: “Thy Kingdom Come.”
Mindful of Andrew Embiricos - and all children, young and old, struggling through this life
The Mother and The Child
From the notebook of Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Harper's Bazaar December 1948