+ Dear Friends,

This picture of “The Four-Season Tree” is a gift that my eight year old friend Pauli made for me. He wanted to thank me. He had wanted to see a monk’s cell, so, i showed him where i live. His grandma was not allowed inside the monastic enclosure. When she questioned him afterwards, the little imp replied: “That’s for men only!“ – but back to the picture.

The first quarter of the tree’s crown shows, as we’d expect, the blossoms of springtime; the leaves of summer in the second quarter are already turning red (time is flying), and in the third quarter autumn fruit is falling. It’s all quite predictable. But where we’d expect snow on the wintery branches we find a surprise: A child shining in golden light. (In Austria it’s not Santa Claus who brings the gifts but the Christ Child.) Thus, the year ends with this archetype of promise: the Child.

“The child wonders at the Christmas Tree,“ says T. S. Eliot, and encourages the child in each of us: “Let him continue in the spirit of wonder.“

He calls his poem “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees“– cultivation, not in the sense of tending and pruning the trees in a nursery, but in the sense of enriching and enlarging our inner treasure of festive memories, year after year –

So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas
(By “eightieth” meaning whichever is the last)
The accumulated memories of annual emotion
May be concentrated into a great joy.

Cultivation of grateful wonderment, day by day, that is the way to this great joy at the end. Therefore my wish for each and all of us: May we never lose this sense of wonderment, our inner child’s spirit of wonder!

Is it not ever new cause for wonder that we exist? That there is anything at all, rather than nothing? How wonder-ful this present moment! How amazing the gift of opportunity it offers us! And if we miss this opportunity, the next moment offers us another one. Yes, the spirit of wonder is the road to joy.

“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders,” says G. K. Chesterton. Those wonders are all around us. To the child’s eyes every tree is a wonder and the wonder of wonders can blossom forth in its branches, like the child with open arms in Pauli’s “Four-Season Tree.”

May we ourselves welcome the year to come with open arms. May each new day bring us full aliveness and great peace of heart! And in the end, may we be able to say with Mary Oliver: ”I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.” This is what I wish you at this season.

From all my heart,
Your brother David


Br. David Steindl-Rast