Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas: Seeing with the eyes of the heart

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

We are forced to live in a world where things are the most explicit object of desire for children and adults. What's for sale has to be bright and magical. If not, nobody buys it. It speaks more to the greedy eyes than to the loving heart. Within this dynamic is the figure of Santa Claus. He is the commercial evolution of Saint Nicolas -- Santa Claus -- whose feast is celebrated on December 6th. He was a bishop, born in 281 in what is now Turkey. He inherited a substantial family fortune. At Christmas time, he went out dressed as a bishop, all in red, with a cane and a bag with gifts for the children. He gave them to them with a note saying they came from the Child Jesus.

Santa Claus gave rise to the current Father Christmas, creation of an American cartoonist, Thomas Nast, in 1886, and subsequently spread about by Coca-Cola, since consumption fell a lot during this cold season. The image of this good old man, dressed in red and with a sack on his back, good natured, giving good advice to children is the dominant figure on the streets and in the shops at Christmas time. His country of birth would have been Lapland, in Finland, where there's heavy snow, elves, fairies and gnomes, and where people travel in sleds pulled by reindeer.

Is there a Santa Claus? That was the question that Virginia, an 8 year-old girl, asked her father. He told her, "Write to the editor of the newspaper. If he tells you that he exists, then he actually exists." That was what the girl did. She received this beautiful answer:

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no child-like faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence."

But for this, we must learn to see through the eyes of the heart and love. Then we see that there is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. Is there a Santa Claus? Thanks be to God, he lives and will live forever as long as there are kids big and small who have learned to see through the eyes of the heart.

This is what we lack most today: the ability to rescue the creative imagination to project better worlds and to see with the heart. If this existed, there wouldn't be so much violence, or so many abandoned children, or the suffering of devastated Mother Earth.

For Christians, the figure of Baby Jesus shivering on the straw, warmed by the breath of the ox and the mule, serves. They told me, mysteriously, through one of the angels singing in the fields of Bethlehem, that He sent a Christmas card to all the world's children that says:

Dear little brothers and sisters,

If you look at the manger and see Me there, knowing in your heart that I am the Child God who doesn't come to judge but to be, cheerfully, with all of you,

If you are able to see My presence in other boys and girls, especially in the poorest,

If you have succeeded in reviving the child hiding in your parents and adults so that love and tenderness well up in them,

If, when looking at the Nativity, you notice that I'm almost naked and you remember the many children who are equally poor and poorly clad, and you suffer in the depths of your heart because of this inhumane situation and truly wish for it to change,

If, on seeing the cow, ox, sheep, goats, dogs, camels and elephants, you think that the whole universe receives My love and light and that everything -- stars, rocks, trees, animals and humans -- forms the great House of God,

If, when you look upward and you see the star with its tail, you remember that there is always a star over you, that keeps you company, lighting you and showing you the best paths,

Know then that I am coming again and renewing Christmas. I will always be near you, walking with you, crying with you and playing with you until that day -- only God knows when -- when we'll all be together in the house of our Father and our Mother of kindness to live happily ever after.

Signed: Baby Jesus
Bethlehem, December 25, 1.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Songs for Advent and Christmas 11: Cantique de Noël

This "Magnificat" of Christmas carols was composed by Adolphe Adam to the French poem "Minuit, chrétiens" ("Midnight, Christians") by Placide Cappeau (1808–1877), a wine merchant and poet, who had been asked by Fr. Eugène Nicolas, pastor of Roquemaure, a town in Gard in the south of France now known as the home of Côtes du Rhône wine and for its moniker "The Capital of Lovers" (Roquemaure hosts an annual "Festival of the Kiss"), to write a Christmas poem for some activities he was organizing to raise funds to restore the stained glass windows at Saint Jean Baptiste. Cappeau wrote the poem on December 3, 1847 in a stagecoach while travelling between Mâcon and Dijon. Adam, who called this carol the "Marseillaise religieuse", set it to music and it was performed for the first time on Christmas Eve during the midnight Mass at Roquemaure by Emily Laurey, a singer who had worked previously with Adam in light opera.

Initially, "Cantique de Noël" was very popular with the church in France, but when Placide Cappeau walked away from the church and became a part of the socialist movement, and church leaders discovered that Adam was a Jew, the song was suddenly and uniformly denounced by the church as being too pagan. The heads of the French Catholic church of the time deemed "Cantique de Noël" unfit for church services because of its "total absence of the spirit of religion." Yet even as the church tried to bury the Christmas song, the French people continued to sing it.

After moving away from institutional religion, Cappeau repented the first verse of his famous poem/hymn. He wrote an alternate version in 1876, just before his death, one that was never embraced by popular culture:

Minuit, chrétiens, c’est l’heure solennelle,
Où dans l’heureux Bethléem, vint au jour
Le messager de la bonne nouvelle
Qui fit, des lois de sang, la loi d’amour.

Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour,
When in happy Bethlehem was born
The messenger of the good news,
who made the law of love from the blood laws.

It was the tenth of his Poème historique en vingt chants, dedicated to the organ at Roquemaure, and in the margins, Cappeau added this note: "Nous avons cru devoir modifier ce qui nous avait échappé au premier moment sur le péché originel, auquel nous ne croyons pas... Nous admettons Jésus comme rédempteur, mais rédempteur des inégalités, des injustices et de l’esclavage et des oppressions de toute sorte..." ("We thought we should modify what escaped from us the first time about original sin, in which we don't believe...We view Jesus as redeemer, but redeemer from inequality, injustice, slavery and oppression of every kind...")

In 1855, John Sullivan Dwight, a Unitarian minister, wrote the English version we are most familiar with as "O Holy Night". Dwight's version guts the political strength of Cappeau's lyrics. Only in the last verse, which is often omitted in performance, does Dwight stay close to the power of the French original:

...Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease....

Because this song was originally designed to be sung by a female voice, I'm partial to this simple version by Nana Mouskouri even though she doesn't sing all the verses (most performances omit the middle verse so this is not unusual).

Cantique de Noël

Minuit, chrétiens, c'est l'heure solennelle,
Où l'Homme-Dieu descendit jusqu'à nous
Pour effacer la tache originelle
Et de Son Père arrêter le courroux.
Le monde entier tressaille d'espérance
En cette nuit qui lui donne un Sauveur.
Peuple à genoux, attends ta délivrance.
Noël, Noël, voici le Rédempteur,
Noël, Noël, voici le Rédempteur !

De notre foi que la lumière ardente
Nous guide tous au berceau de l'Enfant,
Comme autrefois une étoile brillante
Y conduisit les chefs de l'Orient.
Le Roi des rois naît dans une humble crèche :
Puissants du jour, fiers de votre grandeur,
A votre orgueil, c'est de là que Dieu prêche.
Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur.
Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur.

Le Rédempteur a brisé toute entrave :
La terre est libre, et le ciel est ouvert.
Il voit un frère où n'était qu'un esclave,
L'amour unit ceux qu'enchaînait le fer.
Qui lui dira notre reconnaissance,
C'est pour nous tous qu'il naît, qu'il souffre et meurt.
Peuple debout ! Chante ta délivrance,
Noël, Noël, chantons le Rédempteur,
Noël, Noël, chantons le Rédempteur !

(literal English translation)

Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour,
When God-man descended to us
To erase the stain of original sin
And to end the wrath of His Father.
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night that gives it a Savior.
People kneel down, wait for your deliverance.
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!

May the ardent light of our Faith
Guide us all to the cradle of the infant,
As in ancient times a brilliant star
Guided the Oriental kings there.
The King of Kings was born in a humble manger;
O mighty ones of today, proud of your greatness,
It is to your pride that God preaches.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!

The Redeemer has overcome every obstacle:
The Earth is free, and Heaven is open.
He sees a brother where there was only a slave,
Love unites those that iron had chained.
Who will tell Him of our gratitude,
For all of us He is born, He suffers and dies.
People stand up! Sing of your deliverance,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Songs for Advent and Christmas 10: Navidad by José Luis Perales

Let's look at what Christmas looks like. As Spanish singer-songwriter José Luis Perales says: caring for one another, tending the environment, and, most expecially, putting an end to war.

Mientras haya en la tierra un niño feliz
Mientras haya una hoguera para compartir
Mientras haya unas manos que trabajen en paz
Mientras brille una estrella habrá navidad

As long as there's a happy child on earth
As long as there's a bonfire to share
As long as there are hands working for peace
As long as a star is shining there will be Christmas

Navidad, navidad, en la nieve y la arena
Navidad, navidad en la tierra y el mar
Navidad, navidad, en la nieve y la arena
Navidad, navidad en la tierra y el mar

Christmas, Christmas in snow and sand
Christmas, Christmas on sea and land
Christmas, Christmas in snow and sand
Christmas, Christmas on sea and land

Mientras haya unos labios que hablen de amor
Mientras haya unas manos cuidando una flor
Mientras haya un futuro donde mirar
Mientras hay ternura habrá navidad

As long as there are lips speaking of love
As long as there are hands caring for a flower
As long as there's a future to which we can look
As long as there's tenderness there will be Christmas

Estribillo / Chorus

Mientras haya un vencido dispuesto a olvidar
Mientras haya un caído a quién levantar
Mientras pare una guerra y se duerma un cañón
Mientras cure un herido, habrá navidad

As long as there's a loser ready to forget
As long as there's a fallen one to be raised
As long as a war ceases and a canon falls asleep
As long as the wounded are healed, there will be Christmas.

Photo: José Luis Perales with children from Aldeas Infantiles SOS in Peru.

Songs for Advent and Christmas 9: Ven a Mi Casa Esta Navidad

When I first read the lyrics to this song by the late singer-songwriter Luis Aguilé, an Argentinian who made his career in Spain, I thought of all my immigrant friends who will be spending this Christmas so far away from their homelands and loved ones. The song simply invites all the lost and lonely to the table. I suppose the song was intended to be romantic, but I also think of Jesus inviting us to His house (the Church) and His table (the Holy Eucharist). The song is also an invitation to reconciliation, to putting aside our unforgiving hearts during this Christmas season.

Tú que estás lejos de tus amigos,
de tu tierra y de tu hogar,
y tienes pena, pena en el alma,
porque no dejas de pensar.

You who are far from your friends,
your land and your home,
and have pain, pain in the soul,
because you can't stop thinking.

Tú que esta noche no puedes
dejar de recordar,
quiero que sepas, que aquí en mi mesa,
para ti tengo un lugar.

You who can't stop remembering
I want you to know I have a place for you
here at my table.

Por eso y muchas cosas más,
ven a mi casa esta Navidad. (x2)

For this and many other things,
come to my house this Christmas. (x2)

Tú que recuerdas quizá a tu madre
o a un hijo que no está,
quiero que sepas, que en esta noche,
él te acompañará.

You who are perhaps remembering a mother
or a child who isn't here,
I want you to know that tonight
He will accompany you.

No vayas solo por esas calles,
queriéndote aturdir,
ven con nosotros y a nuestro lado
intenta sonreír.

Don't walk these streets alone
wanting to stun yourself,
come with us and, at our side,
try to smile.

Por eso y muchas cosas más,
ven a mi casa esta Navidad.

For this and many other things,...

Tú que has vivido, siempre de espaldas,
sin perdonar ningún error,
ahora es momento de reencontrarnos,
ven a mi casa, por favor.

You who have always turned your back,
never forgiving any trespass,
now is the time for us to meet each other again,
come to my house, please.

Ahora ya es tiempo, de que charlemos,
pues nada se perdió,
en estos días, todo se olvida,
y nada sucedió.

Now is the time for us to talk,
since nothing has been lost,
in these days, all is forgotten,
and nothing happened.

Por eso y muchas cosas más,
ven a mi casa esta Navidad. (x3)

For this and many other things,...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"The Church tends to distance itself from Christ so as not to be disturbed": An interview with Jon Sobrino

This is a recent interview with Jesuit liberation theologian, Jon Sobrino.

by Asteko Elkarrizketa (English translation by Rebel Girl)

They tell me - in jest -- that you're angry with the world and I've also heard more than once that you want to be able to live without feeling ashamed of human beings ... Why?

Sometimes I feel ashamed. For example, are we really interested in Haiti? Obviously it raised interest in the beginning, and there have been some serious responses. But time goes by and it doesn't matter ... Another example I've told other times: in one soccer game of elite teams playing in the Champions League, I calculated that on the field, between the 22 players, there was twice the budget of Chad ... That angers and embarrasses me. Something very profound has to change in this world ...

Where are neoliberalism and globalization taking us?

The disaster is such that, in large part, it has led some to respond humanely: volunteers, NGOs, many churches -- Catholic and Protestant, other religions ... But I think the so-called First World -- one quarter of humanity -- continues to put the meaning of history in accumulation and the enjoyment that accumulation allows. Entertainment, for example, is a multinational mega-industry -- elite sports, tourism ...

Ellacuría called this the "civilization of capital", which produces a very sick society, in a fateful and fatal trance. And I used to say that the solution is to turn it around, so I concocted the term that we need a "civilization of poverty". Ellacuría was stubborn about this: it must be turned around; the engine of history can not be accumulating but solving the basic needs of 6.5 billion human beings, and the meaning of history is spirited solidarity.

In our society, it's common for large companies to hold very mediagenic "solidarity campaigns" with charity events, sponsorships, sending aid, etc ... Is the concept of solidarity being distorted?

I understand the question, but I think both things happen. On the one hand, a certain well-being and material affluence make it easier to give aid, and if one doesn't have a heart of stone, as the prophet Ezekiel said, it becomes somewhat of a heart of flesh and one helps. I think part of that solidarity is authentic.

However, such solidarity is also often used to hide the shame of the lack of a greater and more fundamental solidarity, and not only that, but also the oppression of the great powers over small countries.

Maybe it serves to mask the roots of the problems?

It can be used this way, although, ironically, many of the NGOs exist precisely to tell the truth -- though they don't pay much attention to them -- not just to help financially, but also to defend human rights. I see it as complex and each situation must be analyzed. It's clear that power subjects the whole world, but everyone must push the car of history as they can. Certainly, what we are being offered as solutions makes me indignant and sad.

Does the average citizen in the developed world have some responsibility for the poverty, oppression and wars that plague the planet?

Objectively, yes. Who declares the great wars? Governments, driven by oligarchies, but elected by the citizens. When governments offer war directly, some elect them and others not, but I don't hear of a leader offering to live worse off, at a lower level, so that many others might rise somewhat. In that sense, objectively we are co-responsible. The world is divided between oppressors and oppressed, there's no getting around it ...

In 2006, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a "Notificatio" in which it deems that you distort the figure of the historical Jesus to emphasize His humanity too much at the expense of His divinity. It's the argument of the old heresy ...

What I'm saying is that through the human reality of Jesus of Nazareth, God has made Himself present. But they tell me that I don't end up really saying He is God, and that I speak of Jesus of Nazareth too specifically, and even that I turn Him into a politician, and, in general, the authorities of the Roman curia and the diocesan ones too, don't tend to like that. It happened to several theologians; in my case, it began in 1976.

In the Notificatio, they said two of my books contained dangerous misstatements. Earlier, they had been given to seven serious theologians to read and none of them told me there was any problem of possibility of heresy ... I think Jesus of Nazareth always disturbs us. God disturbs us less because He is so untouchable, so unpalpable ... I think we have a tendency in the Church to distance ourselves from Jesus of Nazareth. It doesn't mean we don't speak of Christ, but Christ is "the anointed one", an adjective.

I think the most dangerous thing is to ignore the fact that Jesus did not just die, but they executed Him, and they killed Him because He stood up to the power of the chief priests and, indirectly, to the Roman powers. Clearly, Jesus didn't just do that; He preached very beautiful and very difficult things: the Beatitudes, mercy towards people, prayer to the Father ... It's nice to see Jesus, but it's something serious too, and if anyone wants to follow the way of Jesus, it's going to cost them ... So I think that, overall, the Church often distances itself from Him so as not to be bothered. But, thank God, there are people and groups who are drawn to Jesus. I've seen it in El Salvador, especially among the poor and their advocates.

After the "Notificatio" you sent a letter to the Jesuit General Peter Hans Kolvenbach, which stated that various theologians didn't find any incompatibility with Church doctrine, that the campaign against you and liberation theology came from 30 years ago and that Ratzinger, in his time as cardinal, had already taken your thoughts and expressions out of context. I gather that there's premeditated harassment against you ...

I wouldn't call it harassment, but bias against me and many others. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger [now Pope Benedict XVI], in an article in 1984-85, criticized me on five points, but also criticized Gustavo Gutiérrez, Ignacio Ellacuría and Hugo Assmann, the four us were in the current that was called liberation theology. Ratzinger was already against this current. If I meet him someday, I hope we can talk as friends...

By the way, one doesn't hear much talk of liberation theology now. Has something changed, perhaps?

Liberation theology was born some fifty years ago in Latin America, a continent of great poverty and Christian faith. Something burst forth there. Something exploded. What erupted? The truth of the poor, which was the reality for centuries. The Church had seen them and had helped them in various ways, but ... when something is so real and explodes, it affects you, shakes you and encourages you to do something.

Thus began the so-called liberation theology, which intended that the poor have life, justice and dignity. For Christian churches, that was God's main will. And in that sense God also "exploded". And then there were two reactions. One, outside the churches. U.S. Vice President [Nelson] Rockefeller, was traveling through Latin America in the seventies and said, among other things: "If what the bishops in Medellin [the 1968 Bishops' Conference, where liberation theology took ecclesial shape] are saying is realized, our interests are endangered." Within the institutional church there was also a backlash from some bishops and cardinals. So liberation theology was born and confrontations ensued. All this led to something unique in the history of Latin America. They wanted to stop it in different ways; one was by killing. They killed dozens of priests, men and women religious, and four bishops. Two others were saved by mistake. And what's less well known: thousands of lay people, most of them poor.

Liberation theology triggered a lifestyle based on compassion, then materialized in forms of justice, based on love for the poor. This now has dropped at the level of the Church and bishops who advocate that line.

Monsignor Romero [Archbishop of San Salvador] said weeks before he was killed in 1980 that "a Christian who sides with the oppressor is not a true Christian" ...

Obviously. To identify with the oppressor means belonging to that group of human beings that is oppressing and taking the lives of others, slowly, through poverty and repression. That person is not Christian. How does he look like Jesus if he is just the opposite? And moreover, he isn't humane. Monsignor Romero was right.

Recently, at a conference of Christian thinkers, you said, paraphrasing the theologian José María Díez Alegría, that "the Church has betrayed Jesus", "this Church is not what Jesus wanted". Where is the Catholic Church's hierarchy leading it?

I didn't paraphrase Díez Alegría, but rather quoted him literally. He said that "overall, the Catholic Church has betrayed Jesus," and I think it's an important reflection. Obviously, not all the Church. I think he is saying that Jesus of Nazareth is disturbing, and so the Church betrays Him. José Antonio Pagola says: what is most needed today is "to mobilize ourselves and join forces urgently to focus the Church more truly and rapidly on the person of Jesus and His plan of the kingdom of God." According to Christian belief, the kingdom of God is the will of God for this world that there be life for all, starting with the poor. And Pagola ended with these words: "Many things will have to be done in the Catholic Church, but none is more crucial than this conversion."

I love the use of the word "conversion" -- it's a radical change. I see nothing more important than returning to this Jesus because we tend to separate from Him, not always, not everyone, not in all ways, but ...

To put it quite simply: when one hears Christian men and women, priests, bishops and non bishops, one rarely hears them talking about Jesus of Nazareth, telling what He said and what He did ... We are losing the essence of Jesus, that's what I meant at the conference. In Latin America it was very present in Don Helder Camara, in Don Pedro Casaldaliga, in many others ... But there's also the temptation to say, like the Grand Inquisitor in the novel "The Brothers Karamazov": "Go and never come back ..."

Even dramatically ... I remember the slogan of the extreme right and the army at the time of repression and war in El Salvador, "be a patriot, kill a priest." Why did they persecute them so cruelly?

They didn't just persecute us, priests and Christian groups, but above all the peasants ... With the Medellin Conference of Bishops of 1968, there was a big change, a breakthrough, and Jesus of Nazareth was present. Being a Christian was following the life of this Jesus, being with the victims, the poor, and, to defend them, confronting the powerful. The oligarchy didn't tolerate this, much less that it came from well-known people of the Church. We priests might be better or worse, but we were an important symbol in the country. That Church that they wanted to have on their side got away from them, so they killed the first priest, Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit, a great friend, on March 12, 1977. A great commotion arose and Romero made a very important decision: he denounced it, he said he would never appear in public civil activities until the crime was solved. And on the Sunday of the funeral, he ordered that there only be a single mass. The people with money, the oligarchy, got angrier: "We have killed one of their priests and they continue ..." They continued to kill priests and distributed leaflets with this sentence: "Be a patriot, kill a priest." In June, they gave us Jesuits a month to leave the country or they would kill us all ... We left. They continued to kill priests and nuns, and especially peasants ...

In this context came the killing of the six Jesuit priests and two women [9/16/1989] in the Central American University (UCA). You were also one of the targets of the military, but were saved by being in Thailand attending a conference. How do you remember those events?

A friend called me from London, he asked if I was sitting and if I had a pencil to write with. And he began: "They killed Ellacuría and ...". I felt like they had ripped my skin to shreds, but when I got angriest was when they told me they had killed the cook and her daughter. That they killed Ellacuría, he "had it coming" -- like Jesus of Nazareth. But killing a cook and her fifteen year-old daughter...!

I also remember that a Thai who had converted to Catholicism asked if in El Salvador, there were Catholics who killed priests. He understood well the horror that entailed. In El Salvador, killing priests now entailed not breaking the rules of good, but those of evil. Anything could happen. And it happened ...

Have you often feared for your life?

Yes and no ... Several times bombs exploded in the UCA and in our house. We were on the lists, Ellacuría first, and the others too. Sometimes in the newspapers, I was singled out too. But to think that what happened to Rutilio Grande, to Father Alfonso Navarro, to Archbishop Romero could happen to us... did not cause us to fear. They used to ask us why we didn't leave the country and we replied that we would be ashamed to go, we would be ashamed to say that we must be with people and then leave. I also taught classes on Christology and had to talk about the life of Jesus. How could I talk about Jesus if I left? And we didn't leave, above all, because we felt part of something larger, an entire people whom we loved and who loved us ... For me, it was a gift to have gone to El Salvador. I will be grateful for life.

You've been living there for over half a century. Some things have changed a lot in El Salvador, but poverty continues, the situation has even worsened with crime and youth gang violence ...

El Salvador, as is happening in Haiti, disappeared from the news. Peace treaties were signed and something important happened: two armies agreed not to continue to fight militarily. And that's very good. Furthermore, in the peace agreements it was decided to investigate serious human rights violations on both sides. The United Nations did a quite serious study about it. But what happened? Before the UN report came out, President Cristiani granted amnesty to those who appeared in it. Such an amnesty is not an act of reconciliation, of humanization: it served mainly so that it would not touch the government. Nobody has been convicted yet for the murder of Monsignor Romero -- nor has the Vatican canonized him...

Because of the short time framework, the agreements didn't sufficiently address the economy either, and that is still being felt. I'm not saying that with good agreements on the means of production, labor law, etc ... much would have changed. I'm not very optimistic but, by doing nothing, the unfair economic situation continues with no sign of a solution.

And there have been two other major negative things: Many Salvadorans -- two to three million -- go to the U.S. to find work, which brings many human problems, division of families, etc ... The other problem is the violence of the gangs, that have generated a kind of life in which young people find a sense of identity and are prepared to kill and be killed. And we must add the mafias, drug trafficking, kidnapping ... I wonder sometimes, tragically, why in El Salvador, and in similar countries, they have not decided on collective suicide. For many people, that is not living. But in the people, there is a greater force to move forward and face the most difficult problems. This force is expressed in the effort to survive, the attempts to organize. It is nurtured by many good people, the martyrs with Romero at the top. I think this is difficult to understand here.

I'm surprised how little Salvadoran accent you have ... In El Salvador do they still think of you as Basque?

Admittedly, I haven't changed accents. As far as what is Basque, I haven't lost my roots ... But nor is it an absolute ... Nor is it that I feel Salvadoran, although that is what I most feel I am. I think what has happened to me in El Salvador is a greater openness to all that is human, beyond localities ...

You've put aside coming back to Basque Country to stay ...

What's normal is not coming back to stay; if I come back, I will have to figure out what to do to help here. I would love to cooperate, do good, but I have no recipe. The change would be great. In El Salvador are the poor who don't take life for granted and have almost all the world powers against them. Here in Europe, life is taken for granted, and with much power in their favor. If I may say metaphysically: the poor are "those who are not real." Here we think we're what's real. Being in El Salvador means cooperating for all to live, and the dream of doing it as brothers and sisters. Here I would have to rethink it, though I see good people and things to which I could point.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Songs for Advent and Christmas 8: Villancico de Gloria Fuertes

The late Spanish poet, Gloria Fuertes, wrote many Christmas-related poems. She also wrote poetry for children. In this simple carol, she looks at the Nativity from the perspective of the Child Jesus and His priorities. Is it a greater sin to kiss each other in public or speak ill of our neighbor? Her words challenge today's Church that seems overly focused on sexual morality. Paco Ibañez put Gloria's words to music. In the end, Fuertes' Jesus is like any other little boy -- He asks for the Three Kings to wait so He can write to them!

Ya está el niño en el portal
que nació en la porteria,
San José tiene taller,
y es la portera Maria.

Vengan sabios y doctores
a consultarle sus dudas,
el niño sabe lo todo
está esperando en la cuna.

Dice que pecado es
hablar mal de los vecinos
y que pecado no es
besarse por los caminos.

Que se acerquen los pastores
que me divierten un rato
que se acerquen los humildes,
que se alejen los beatos.

Que pase la Magdalena,
que venga San Agustín,
que esperen los reyes magos
que les tengo que escribir.