Although we do not know much about St. Wenceslas, the good ‘king’ of song, we do know that he was generous with the poor. The carol is based upon this virtue which he lived heroically, and the opening line about his ‘looking out on the feast of Stephen’ is symbolic of the martyrdom for the sake of Christ which he eventually underwent. The generosity for which he was famous was well documented. In the year 1119 a historian named Cosmas of Prague wrote the following about the ‘good king’: “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.” **
May we reflect upon the great gift of all those who are gathered at the manger with us! May we ask Jesus to help turn any area within our hearts which is greedy, or any motivation we have toward selfishness, into generosity and mercy! May we give our time, talent, and treasure to those who are in need, and be generous in our thoughts and deeds when we are challenged by the spirit of impatience, judgmentalism, anger, gossip, divisiveness, envy, revenge, unforgiveness, selfishness, or apathy! May we follow the example of St. Wenceslas, giving to those who are poor in any way! May we pray for our world and its leaders, that they may become more generous, kind, and merciful in how they make decisions! And may we be humble like the tiny Child, offering all we have to Him, as He does for us! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
Next entry: January 16.
* The entirety of the lyrics of the carol Good King Wenceslas can be found at the following link: https://www.carols.org.uk/good_king_wenceslas.htm. You will note that the title of this entry is the first line of the final verse, and from the final verse is also the last line prior to the closing ‘prayer’ paragraph.
** The quote from Cosmas of Prague can be found in the following article about St. Wenceslas. http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=592
Other sources used for this entry:
The first image is of the Nativity, painted by Giotto in 1309. It is found in the lower church in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy. While the kings seem to be absent from this scene, I chose it because it seems rather 'true to life.' The shepherds are a bit awestruck and overwhelmed; the cows and sheep seem to be much more attentive, joining Joseph who sits on the ground contemplating the scene (although one sheep is distracted and foraging, sort of like us when we forget the season!)
Second is an icon by Fr. William Hart McNichols called Holy Protomartyr Saint Stephen. I chose this icon because of the reference in the song (Good King Wenceslas) to the Feast of Stephen. His feast is the tie of the carol to the season.
If you are interested in purchasing a copy in one of a number of mediums, it can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/holy-protomartyr-deacon-st-stephen-261-william-hart-mcnichols.html
Third is a painting of St. Wenceslas taken from a YouTube video of the carol, complete with lyrics. I chose this painting because it so beautifully depicts Wenceslas as in the song: he is giving bread to the poor. To watch the video click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-ZrmdMEasQ
Fourth is a photo I took in Grapevine, TX. I chose this because it represents the joy of the Christmas season. As I said, there is much good in celebrating the season so long as we keep it all in perspective. We should decorate and we should have fun. But we also need to share the reason for the season.
Fifth is a stained glass window which depicts all of the 'characters' from the combined Nativity narratives of Matthew and Luke. Everyone, including the animals, is shown in this remarkable stained glass. I chose it because I loved that the magi, often referred to as kings, were dressed humbly without crowns. It took me a few moments to realize that they were indeed the magi. If not for the gifts in their hands, I would not have known who they were! This highlights that, despite the lyrics of the carol which calls the men kings, (We Three Kings) the only true king in the Nativity scene is Jesus, the Lord. The shepherds are also in the proper stance, pointing to God, on high, personified by the Star. This whole humble scene is a glorification of God. I found this scene with help from Google at http://www.desktopimages.org/preview/169763/2100/1070/o
Last is an exquisite painting by Caravaggio, Adoration of the Shepherds. I chose it because the shepherds are reflecting upon the scene at the manger to which the angels drew them. Poor as they are, they are aware that they have a precious gift to offer along with their adoration of the Holy Child. In truth, they are giving the gift of their lives just as He gives His to them.
I offer my prayer for all my readers to have a blessed and happy New Year!