Thursday, December 26, 2002

We attended midnight mass at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Forest Hills, the church I attended as a child, the altar I walked off of when, at the height my holiness, I was relievedly dismissed from being an altar boy, the pews where I shook my eyes and stared and, as all around my pinpoint focus went dark, I would launch into a trance.

During the midnight Christmas service, this church had a tungsten brightness hitherto unavailable during the 20th Century. The priests brought a porcelain child around the pews and landed it in a nest made of hay.

Caesar had called for a census that year, sending everyone back to their hometowns to be counted, during which life went on, children were born, one child even born in a manger, among the calves, there being no room at "the inn." Try counting him in your census. (Only Isaac Assimov's actuarial table would dare factor in such a mule.)

His life would run a spectrum starkly displayed in the church: To our left was a stable dotted with an angel, to the further left, a wood carving of a man hammered to a cross bookended by two kneeling women prayerfully gazing up at him. Relive this individual's human path, from the manger to the crucifix -- a lifespan of 33 years -- from Christmas, Dec. 25, 2002 until Good Friday, April 18, 2003.

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