By Robert Moynihan
How we await with patience the things we long for. God finally answers our longings, in His time. A reflection on life, on death, on Christmas, and on Christian hope
A happy and holy Christmas to all. The year 2020 has been difficult. We look forward now to the Christmas season and the new year with much hope, but also with much sorrow.
My father died this past spring, and in the late autumn, my friend and colleague, John Moorehouse, also passed away. I would like to remember both men here—as well as any of your loved ones who have gone to the Lord this year.
William T. Moynihan
My father’s favorite passage from Scripture was the Nunc dimittis (“Now you dismiss your servant, O Lord”), spoken 2,000 years ago by the High Priest, Simeon, after he saw the Baby Jesus, brought to him by Mary and Joseph. (Luke 2:29-32)
I remember my father saying those words to me in a joking way when I was seven years old. I had asked my father to help me in the yard, and he had worked with me for an hour. When we finished, my father turned, fixed his eyes on mine, and, with a big smile, said, “Good job. Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine.”
I was puzzled. I asked him to explain the words to me. He said, “Those were the words the High Priest, Simeon, spoke to God after he saw the Baby Jesus, for whom he had been waiting all his life. ‘Now you dismiss your servant, O Lord.’ When Mary and Joseph brought the Child Jesus to him, Simeon realized Jesus was the promised Savior, expected for so long. So Simeon turned and said to God, ‘Now (nunc) you dismiss me (dimittis), O Lord (Domine).’ Simeon meant that all of his work, like all of the work we have just done, was complete. Jesus had come at last.
Having seen Jesus, Simeon could depart from this world. Everything he had hoped for and longed for was fulfilled. Now our work is also done, and you may also dismiss me and go do other things!” Dad was like that, weaving together Scripture and everyday life, illuminating one by the other, with good humor and kindness.
The Nunc dimittis is known as the Song of Simeon or the Canticle of Simeon. Latin (Vulgate):
Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine,
secundum verbum tuum in pace:
Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum,
Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum:
Lumen ad revelationem gentium,
et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.
English (translation of the Vulgate): Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
One of the unsung heroes of Catholic publishing and intellectual life in America, John Moorehouse, passed away quite unexpectedly on December 5, at the age of only 51, leaving his widow, Robin, and five children. I grieve over his passing.
John was the chief acquisitions editor at TAN Books in Charlotte, North Carolina, and he helped me during the past year and a half to complete my book, FINDING VIGANÒ: The Search for the Man Whose Testimony Shook the Church and the World.
I am just one among dozens of Catholic authors who depended on John to clarify and refine their visions. John worked in the service of Him who was, always and unquestionably, his Lord and Savior. Inside the Vatican contributors Anthony Esolen, Michael Greavey and Paul Kengor, to name a few, also collaborated with John on books.
Esolen recalled John’s willingness to take on true labors of love, like publishing the now-defunct Catholic Men’s Quarterly, simply because it was “a good thing to do.” John, he says, “was a good man, a faithful husband and father, a devout Catholic, and—what is rare enough in our time—great fun to be around. You could see it in his eyes and in the eyes of his wife and children. We sometimes met them on our way out of Mass on a Sunday evening at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts, where I now teach, and where I hope to instruct his children as they come of age. And that too brings something to my mind. John had tremendous energy and ability and intelligence, and a willingness to take risks. He could have been the chief of a big business. He could have been living the easy and secure life of a tenured professor. No ambition compelled him to produce his Quarterly. He did it, and he enjoyed it, because it was a good thing to do—and a necessary thing to do. He did it for the good of his fellow men and for the Church. John did much with small resources, but it may be truer to say that the God who governs even a grain of dust, who resists the proud and dwells with the humble, works miracles by those who hold to His truth, whatever their resources may be, even while the colossi crumble to dust. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.”
A Christmas Meditation
A few words to ponder from Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò: “In the silence of our holy waiting for the promised Savior, we venerate the Annunciation to Mary Most Holy, who in her humility consented to receive the Second Person of the Holy Trinity to be made flesh in Her virginal womb, which had been preserved from every stain of sin. By her consent through that blessed Fiat, our salvation would be realized.
“The Most Holy Christmas of Our Lord is approaching, to celebrate a historic event—the true ‘Great Reset’—which snatched the redeemed souls from Satan by means of the Blood of the Lamb. Let us commit ourselves to ensure that this Christmas constitutes a spiritual rebirth for each one of us, for our families, for our communities and for our countries: this Christmas, we can be that crib in which the Blessed Virgin will lay the Child King, ‘the Light to enlighten the nations and the glory of your people Israel’ (Lk 2:32).”