A strange wintry inspiration comes to me at the dawn of Autumn.
Sometimes inspirations come in such a bizarre way that they simply must be from God because all other explanations fail.
This is one.
The last few days, my mind has been buzzing with the story of Good King Wenceslas and the Christmas song of the same name. A Christmas song so-called because it's played at Christmas time and refers to an event taking place during the Christmas season, just not on Christmas day itself. The story is removed from the birth of Christ by some 9 centuries.
Like so many other legendary figures, Wenceslas was an actual person- a Catholic Saint and Martyr. He was assasinated at the age of 28 as the result of a plot fomented by his own brother. His life is a textbook on what it means to be a true and devout Catholic.
He died on September 28th, 935 AD. It was later declared his feast day. It is important to know that I had absolutely no clue of this as I began having these inspirations.
The goodness and generosity of Wenceslas is the stuff of legend. Wikipedia....
But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.
Several centuries later this legend was asserted as fact by Pope Pius II.
In fact, it is said that Pope Pius II actually once walked miles in the snow in his bare feet as an act of thanksgiving for the great saint. That brings us to the song.
Good King Wenceslas- the song- is a celebration of not just the goodness and generosity of the saintly man but also of his courage. It really is an incredible story and song but it begs the question- what on earth caused me to think of the Christmassy song in September, when I had no idea that his feast day was nigh??
Let's revisit that in a moment.
The story of the song.
King Wenceslas (actually, he was a Duke. He was given the title of King posthumously as an honor)
On march with his page, on the feast of Saint Stephen (December 26th- the 2nd day of Christmas) in a fierce snowstorm, they spotted a poor man gathering wood. The noble duke was moved to compassion and ordered his page to bring forth food and drink and wood, after learning where this poor man lived. They began their march to the poor man's home. After some time, the page had not the strength to keep marching against the driving blizzard. Heroically, Wenceslas took the lead, blocking the cruel wind and digging a path in the snow for the page to follow.
Wow. It really is a heroic story.
So, why this vision now?
It is because, I suppose, that the Good King is a typology of Our Glorious King who is beckoning me to follow Him forth against the blizzard.
Lord, I am numb. I am in awe of You. By your strength, I'll keep marching.
Good Saint Wenceslas, please pray for us.
Good King Wenceslas looked out On the Feast of Stephen When the snow lay round about Deep and crisp and even Brightly shone the moon that night Though the frost was cruel When a poor man came in sight Gathering winter fuel
Hither, page, and stand by me, If thou knowst it, telling Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling? Sire, he lives a good league hence, Underneath the mountain Right against the forest fence By Saint Agnes fountain.
Bring me flesh and bring me wine Bring me pine logs hither Thou and I shall see him dine When we bear them thither. Page and monarch, forth they went Forth they went together Through the rude winds wild lament And the bitter weather
Sire, the night is darker now And the wind blows stronger Fails my heart, I know not how I can go no longer. Mark my footsteps, good my page Tread thou in them boldly Thou shall find the winters rage Freeze thy blood less coldly.
In his masters step he trod Where the snow lay dinted Heat was in the very sod Which the Saint had printed Therefore, Christian men, be sure Wealth or rank possessing Ye, who now will bless the poor Shall yourselves find blessing.