Posted December 26, 2008 in Advent and Christmas:
Peeling Vegetables and Christmas

by Catherine Doherty.

A staff worker of Friendship House, one of Catherine Doherty’s earlier houses, was bored and tired of her job—peeling vegetables for the soup kitchen. Catherine wrote her this letter on Christmas Day, 1937.

Dear Flewy,

Unto us a Child is born! Glory to God and on earth peace to men of good will.

Do you understand what is happening? Humility has taken flesh; it has become a Child.

Beauty, all created and uncreated Beauty, has concentrated itself in an Infant. Love has clothed itself with the garments of man. You can see it, feel it, touch it, for there it lies, helpless and small—in a manger.

All this for you and me, so that we could learn the Way. Because we are so weak, so unstable, God became man, and from that moment, all we had to do was follow him step by step, from Bethlehem to Nazareth, through Palestine, to Calvary.

We cannot go astray now. His footprints are clearly outlined before us, and nothing—do you understand—nothing, can remove them. People will come, people will go, but those footprints will still be there to see until the end of the world.

Humility has taken flesh. Peeling, peeling, peeling potatoes, vegetables in a cold kitchen, as you have to do, might not seem much of an apostolate, and it would not be except for the fact that Humility has taken flesh and has become a Child.

Being born in a dirty stable, also, does not seem like much, especially when it is the Creator of all splendor that was thus born. But it makes peeling vegetables a stairway to heaven and him, because you see, vegetables, mounds of them, in a cold kitchen, done for his sake in all humility, hidden from the eyes of men, unnoticed, unsung, might become more heroic than dying for him.

It is so small, so humble, so hidden, so monotonous, just like being born in a stable, swaddled in a lot of linen, unable to move, and yet in oneself containing the wisdom of the Almighty. So take heart, dear friend, and when you peel, think of him who was so humble, so small, so still in his Mother’s arms. It will help.

Beauty created and uncreated concentrated itself in an Infant. And because it did, life has become glorious. For up until then, people could only dream of beauty, and past generations saw it in lofty temples, beautiful bodies, and deathless words.

But we today can see it everywhere. It lights the humblest task. It glorifies each thought. It permeates the poorest home. A cold kitchen, a dreary task on a gray day can become sheer, perfect gossamer beauty if lighted from within by faith.

Those lofty temples are dust, those beautiful bodies are just bones now, and those deathless writings are little read, but gray days and dreary tasks become golden and sing and sing now and for eternity because they are being done for that Immortal Beauty that took on mortal flesh for us.

Love has clothed itself with garments of man. It has become incarnate. And now all is changed. Life has become glorious and little things, little ways, are great and heroic, because they are made so with Love.

Can’t you see how glorious your life can be in that cold kitchen, on any dreary day, when the mound of vegetables looks like the Himalayan Mountains themselves, and all seems to go wrong, for no one comes on time, and everyone rubs you the wrong way?

You can walk in Beauty, through the road of humility and silence, as deep as that of the Holy Night, toward Love—each step a song, each movement a gift, each sharp word not returned in kind, a prayer to him who for your sake became so small, so helpless, so tiny.

If there is anything more glorious in life than day by day in tiny ways serving him, loving him, consoling him with each task done for his dear sake, I do not know of it.



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