A cranky little exchange this morning had me flouncing out of the house and across the courtyard to my office without so much as a good-bye. Later, I took a walk through the center of Florence without letting anybody know where I was. Hah! There was a degree of satisfaction in each of these small guerrilla actions, although they would have been sweeter still if somebody had noticed at least one of them. Most of my hostilities are like this, actually. They are secrets.
At this time of year, one doesn't want to risk getting caught red-handed at being crabby. Especially in my line of work. If anybody's got to be sweet in this world, surely the priest at Christmas time is that person.
True, it's a bit of a burden. The rich Christmas stew of memory and loss is as potent for us as it is for anyone else. We are not the only ones who bear it, of course. Moms and dads do, too. So do elderly relatives, no longer central to the feast as they once were, aware of having become an obligation, in some vague way, a person who must be seen to. So do new couples, fresh from weddings and commitment ceremonies, out t o make a life that surpasses any coupled lives they have observed, including -- no, especially -- the one that gave them birth. All of us whose lives are directly responsible to other lives feel the need to add an extra spoonful or two of sugar at this time, to cover any sourness that may be lurking about. And I cannot be the only one who reaches for the sugar and finds the cupboard bare.
Enter the beet. Here is Italy, the fruit of the beet plant -- the lovely round red root an American refers to as "a beet," is prized for its sweetness. It is as much a condiment as it is a vegetable, if not more so. The green leaves of the plant is what an Italian thinks of, mainly, when he thinks of a beet -- the round red bart he calls the "beet root," in fact; a secondary aspect of the whole beet system.
The sweetness of the beet root is earthy. It tastes faintly and delightfully of dirt. Its sweetness is subtle. Beet sugar is the sugar of most Italian confectionary cooking, not cane sugar. Cane sugar is far too assertive. It easily overwhelms the other ingredients in any dish in which it figures. It seems, also, to have addictive properties; beet sugar is more satisfying. Cane sugar is just over the top.
Beets are honest. They do not seek to be higher than they are. They are without pretension. A beet can not render more sweentess than it has, and it doesn't try. It is what it is, and that will have to do.
A Christmas beet to you and yours, then. Enjoy what there is for what it is. And then stop when it's gone. It will have to do, and it will do just fine.
There is still time to register for a course in the Epiphany term at General Theological Seminary. Barbara Crafton, Clair McPherson and David Keller are faculty for this year's one-week intensive educational experiences in January.
Epiphany Term Courses – January 2009
Retreats and Quiet Days Leadership Practicum. Adj. Prof. Barbara Crafton. Brief periods of structured time apart from the rush of daily life are increasingly popular in parishes. This course allows students to examine and participate in different formats for retreats/Quiet Days. After-class work consists of planning such an event for future use. 3 credits. Course AT320(520). Mon.-Fri., Jan. 5-9.
Imagination of the Patristics: Art, Poetry and Spirituality, A.D. 100-500. Adj. Prof. Clair McPherson. How did the earliest Christians see Christ? How did they use their artwork as a catalyst for meditation and prayer? How did they create their first literature? Reflect on these questions through architecture, the art of the catacombs, and the spirituality of early theologians such as Ignatius, Irenaeus, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory the Great. 2(3) credits. Course AT125(535). Mon.-Fri., Jan. 12-16.
Introduction to the Wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Adj. Prof. David Keller. Amid major transitions in society and the church in the third to the seventh centuries, the Christian Desert Mothers and Fathers developed disciplines of silence, prayer, self-knowledge, work, and love of neighbor that transformed their lives. This course presents their wisdom in the context of their societies and their ascetic vocations, with a look at how this tradition has influenced Christian monastic life and the life of the Church we know today. 2(3) credits. Course AT160(560). Mon.-Fri., Jan 19-23.
Information / Registration:
William C. Webster
Director of Admissions
(212) 243-5150 x280
Executive Director of Communications
(212) 243-5150 x285