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25.12.04

Merry Christmas

Giotto, Nativity, Arena Chapel, 1305/06

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

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.

Christina Rossetti, In the Bleak Midwinter (1872)

Happiest Christmas wishes to all of you! If you hear the bells on Christmas Day, as in the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, reflect on how each of us can make their "old familiar carol" a reality: "peace on earth, good will to men."

The painting shown here is the Nativity scene from Giotto's fresco cycle in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. As I learned from this history of Halley's Comet, Giotto had likely seen the famous comet in 1301 and included its likeness here as the Star of David sighted over Bethlehem. (The comet also appears in the Bayeux Tapestry, in the fifth image from the top here, because it was interpreted as a bad omen when Harold was crowned King of England.)

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