The Chorus of Bethlehem Angels

nativity-holy-night-correggio

Correggio's Nativity

Frye writes:

If I had been out on the hills of Bethlehem on the night of the birth of Christ, with the angels singing to the shepherds, I think that I should not have heard any angels singing.  The reason why I think so is that I do not hear them now, and there is no reason to suppose that they have stopped.  (The Critical Path, 114)

History tells the reader what he would have seen if he’d been present, say, at the assassination of Caesar.  But what the Gospels tell us is rather something like this: if you had been present on the hills of Bethlehem in the year nothing, you might not have heard a chorus of angels.  But what you would have seen and heard would have missed the whole point of what was actually going on.  Thus, the antitypes of history and of prophecy as we have them in the gospel and the apocalypse give you not what you would have seen and heard, or what I would have seen and heard, but what was actually going on which we don’t have the spiritual vision to reach to.  (“Kerygma,” in Northrop Frye’s Notebooks and Lectures on the Bible and Other Religious Texts, CW 13, 588)

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