For the first time ever, invited by a friend to go Christmas shopping in New York City, I indulged in viewing the spectacle of department store windows dressed in fantasy-like splendor to lure shoppers into their doors where hopefully, they will spend their hard earned cash on objects that they think that their friends or relatives might like as Christmas gifts.
I knew going into to this mini-adventure that the Baby Jesus long ago lost His place of eminence in this annual extravaganza. It seems to me that Santa Claus, that joy old guy that has powers that are a cross between Athena, goddess of wisdom, and a fairy queen endowed with whimsical actions is loosing his hold on the hearts and minds of little people. This season, ye old Nutcracker, baby animals and interactive window displays are jockeying for prime position in the hearts and minds of babes. Of course, the main purpose of all of this hoopla is to reduce inventory and to provide gifts, which isn’t a bad thing.
In fact, at times, when I could joggle the crowd into just the right position so that I could people watch, I enjoyed seeing the smiles of the grown-ups in the crowd who sighed and sometimes teared up over a particularly tender window display.
With the exception of the major department stores, all of the other stores along the avenue displayed their wares only. Not a speck of holiday fluff was visible. Those stores must be operated by “spiritual” people who practice no religion on the bases of freedom from ritual. What an excuse for doing exactly what you please, when you please! The only persons they fool are themselves.
On the other hand, crowds flowed in and out of St. Patrick’s all day, some hoping to catch sight of a nativity scene from their childhood. Alas, the four weeks before Christmas is the season of Advent, a time of special prayers and sacrifices in preparation of the great gift of the birth of the Son of God. The church is baron of holiday decoration.
For some, just being at the cathedral for a visit or a service is its own reward. Standing in line to use the facilities, I over-heard a young woman talking to her mother on her cell phone saying, “In 40 minutes, I’m going to the third Sunday in Advent Mass at St. Patrick’s.” The young woman said all of that with genuine anticipated pleasure. All is not lost.