Christmas and Cross in Contention

Christmas Day was Friday. Saturday was the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr. Today, Monday, was the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which remembers Herod’s slaughter of children under the age of two in his attempt to kill the baby Jesus. Jesus and his family fled to Egypt, refugees seeking shelter in a foreign land.

The Church’s liturgical calendar is not very subtle in its point: the powers that be quickly threaten Christmas, the coming of Christ. The domination system acts quickly to suppress movements for liberation. Or as Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross [be prepared for the Roman method of execution] and follow me.” (Mark 8:34).

Christmas and Cross were in contention this morning at Manna House.

Christmas: We opened Manna House an hour early so guests could come right in from the rain as soon as they arrived.

Cross: The domination system produces homelessness spitting expendable people out into the streets. Housing is just another commodity in the free market. Homelessness means having no shelter from a storm. Homelessness means being soaking wet and cold when it rains. And this morning it was raining, hard. Even those who had enjoyed some shelter also arrived drenched. They had been turned out at daybreak, as is usual shelter practice. Their dry night became a wet morning as soon as they stepped outside.

Christmas: Hot coffee was served all morning to anyone who came through the doors seeking shelter from the rain. Dry socks were given out to any who asked. Dry shirts were also available.

Cross: A guest told me as he waited in the coffee line, “I got evicted on Christmas Eve. I’ve been on the streets ever since. Some neighbor complained about me. I still don’t know what I did.”

Another Cross: A guest came in with a split lip and a visible lump on his head. “I got jumped. They took everything I had, which wasn’t much. I told them, ‘Don’t leave me in pieces.’ And I’m still in one piece.”

Christmas and Cross: A guest needed some medical attention. He had cut his finger severely a few days previously. He needed some new bandages and antibacterial ointment. Volunteers in the clothing room patched him up.

Cross: Some of the guests who struggle with mental illness seemed worse today. They were very agitated and edgy. People who had been doing well are descending back into chaotic suffering and the system does not care. Check that, the system will care to arrest a mentally ill person who acts out badly.

Christmas almost Crossed: Guests on the shower list looked forward to getting a hot shower and a dry set of clothes. Then the hot water heater stopped working. No hot water. A few bravely went in to take cold showers and put on the warm dry clothes as quickly as they could. Then, as Kathleen described it, “A Christmas Miracle” happened. The hot water heater started working again. All those on the shower list except the first three got hot showers.

Christmas: We had a lot of cookies to share with guests. Chocolate chip were clearly the favorite with oatmeal raisin a close second.

Cross: We closed at 11:30a.m. as usual.

Christmas: The rain had stopped an hour earlier.

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