Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
                     In the Bleak Midwinter, by Christina Rosetti

The carol, In the Bleak Midwinter, is probably my favorite Christmas song. The verse above is not in our hymnal. I found it online at website for The Poetry Foundation. The word “Enough” spoke to me because Rosetti’s description tells me that Jesus did not need much when he was born—a place to sleep, food to eat, and parents to care for him. It was enough. I find it humorous that even though angels fall before him, it was enough that the animals adored him!

How satisfied am I with simple things—simple, nourishing food, an adoring pet, a place to sleep, and the companionship and support of others? Maybe the reason the word “enough” keeps coming back to me is that I recently read about Evagrius Ponticus, the early monastic teacher whose naming of the eight deadly passions laid the groundwork for the seven deadly sins. Evagrius also named eight virtues, one for each of the passions (the monastics always considered passions as negative—they were states of mind that were considered destructive of love). We don’t talk about the virtues as much as we should. Evagrius said that the only way to do away with a passion was to overcome it with a corresponding virtue.

Interestingly, the first passion he named was gluttony. Considering the word “enough” against the backdrop of gluttony makes the contrast between the two especially strong. Gluttony is not only about overeating. It is about overdoing anything that is destructive of love. So how much of what we do in this season becomes gluttonous? And when we identify our overeating, overbuying, overdecorating and overdoing as gluttony, how is that celebrating the birth of the One who was born into simple surroundings and was satisfied with the simple things that nourished his life?

The virtue that overcomes gluttony is temperance. What would it look like to practice temperance in this season? Would simple meals, simple gifts, and a simple celebration allow me to focus more on the birth of Jesus, to adore along with the animals that surrounded him? 

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