A poem by Christina Rosetti, published posthumously in 1904, became a favorite Christmas carol after Gustav Holst set it to music for the English Hymnal two years later. The poem underscores the harsh setting of the nativity — the first stanza reads:
In the bleak midwinter Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, Long ago.
I thought of these words today as Washington, D.C., still sits under more than a foot of “snow on snow,” the ground underneath frozen “hard as iron.” In Rossetti’s poem, the wintry setting contrasts with the warm adoration of the child by the angels, the cherubim, seraphim, ox, ass, camel, mother, shepherds, and the wise men:
What can I give him, Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb, If I were a wise man I would do my part, Yet what I can I give Him — Give my heart.
This morning, before the sun has risen, the wise men and women of the Senate will have made their way over the still-icy sidewalks and stairways of the Capitol to vote on Christmas Eve day at 7:00 a.m.
Children also figure into the senators’ narrative on the day before Christ’s birth. These are the children who will never be born, because 60 U.S. senators, many of them Catholic, will vote to provide funding for abortion in the name of “preventive care.”
As a 2007 Guttmacher report on Medicaid abortion funding shows, “Studies published over the course of two decades, looking at a number of states, concluded that 18-35 percent of women who would have had an abortion continued their pregnancies after Medicaid funding was cut off.” The Guttmacher researcher calls this “the most tragic result of the funding restrictions,” an opinion obviously shared by the majority of the Senate in the 111th Congress.
They don’t seem to grasp the tragedy they will have enacted. How many more children will die each year? One hundred thousand? Two hundred thousand? Probably more — many more.
Nothing that happens in the grandeur of the Senate chamber on Christmas Eve could be further from the scene conjured by Rossetti’s image of angels who “fall down” and “throng the air,” while
His mother only, In her maiden bliss, Worshipped the Beloved With a kiss.
Or the wise man who hesitates before naming what it is he has to give — not his intelligence, but his heart.
Those who gathered in the cold night air around the manger brought the warmth of their devotion and the light of their happiness to welcome the child. The vote this morning will send a chill across America, with people asking themselves, “What have we become? Where did we lose our way?”
The voices of these people have yet to be heard. How could they respond to the 2,000-plus pages of a bill conceived in secret, published only days before Sen. Harry Reid demanded a vote?
But the winter is far from over, and the bill still has to pass muster with some men and women in the House who understand why the wise man chose to give his heart to the Child in the manger.