Some Reflections on the Story of the Little Drummer Boy

December 19, 2019

(This text is an adaptation of remarks made by Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira after viewing the presentation of the Nativity scene with a sound and light show at a Brazilian TFP center in São Paulo during Christmastide, 1990.)

In this very beautiful presentation we beheld those so-poetical Magi Kings, with their turbans and so on, and this boy, so much more poetical than the Magi Kings. We also saw those sand dunes and those mountains, both endless and nameless because the wind incessantly makes them and unmakes them, now one way, then another. The windstorms, no sooner building them up, undo them. This desert, with its grandeur, is the panorama, the setting wherein this boy spends his childhood, a balanced childhood, a serious childhood, somewhat sad, but a profound and joyful childhood.

This boy, as we heard, was educated not with companions but with his poor elderly father. Having lost his Mother, he suffered the orphanhood of this missing affection. On the other hand, having no bad companions, he enjoyed a solitude without continuous banter, indecent jokes, agitation, rivalry. He knew only his elderly father, whom he honored with long oriental ceremony. From his father he received just one present, but it was a present of greater worth than any other he might have received, the capacity of soul for enjoying just one present. This is worth more than a thousand presents.

From these circumstances, he comes forth a composer, playing, producing rhythms and melodies. What a marvel! How much better off he is than a rich boy with toys on end!

Yes, he plays, although he has no one with whom to play.

But how beautiful is his solution: He knows about the Infant Jesus, so he goes to play his little drum for Him.

The figure of this boy carrying his little drum for the Infant Jesus to hear is touching, undoubtedly touching. He goes to play his drum for Him to Whom the angels, in the highest heavens, are singing inestimable symphonies. Hearing this drum, the Infant Jesus opens His eyes and mercifully attracts this drummer, this soul Perhaps this drummer was the first friend of the Infant Jesus. What a wondrous vocation!

All of this is indeed touching, but if one considers this episode from another viewpoint, one is moved even more.

We are accustomed to thinking of the Infant Jesus lying in the manger, awaiting everyone who goes there. Indeed, the Infant Jesus was in the manger and people went there to adore Him: the Magi Kings, the shepherds, obviously Our Lady and Saint Joseph, and other people who passed by. This is historic reality.

Surpassing this, there is a theological reality, a supernatural reality that is connected to it and that cannot be dissociated from it. It is a reality much more touching and no less real: The Infant Jesus, in an invisible way, goes forth on Christmas night to play His drum throughout the world, seeking souls, calling this soul, that soul, that other soul, to come to Him, to come to know Him, to love, Him, to belong to Him. But He has much more than a little drum to attract men and to enchant them. He has the beating of His heart, the Sacred and indescribable beating of His heart.

Adoration of the Shepherds by Giorgione

What is real about this?

If we put aside the metaphor and go directly to the fact, the reality is this:

Let us consider another representation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The representation that most touches me – something subjective already comes in, something legitimately subjective, personal, perhaps not the same one that touches you the most, but it is legitimate that each have his own preference. The depiction of Our Lord that most touches me is the Holy Shroud of Turin. It is not the Infant Jesus, lovingly held in Our Lady’s virginal arms, but Our Lord crucified, nailed to the arms of the cross by the cruel Roman centurions.

There He is. Having died, He was laid in a tomb. All the wounds of His Passion are visible. He is there, and I gaze at Him.

Holy Shroud of Turin

As I gaze at Him, grace, a created participation in the life of God, touches my soul as a Catholic, as it touches all Catholics. Grace touches me in a special way, in function of my mentality and the path of virtue that, according to the plans of Providence, I should follow, so that I may contemplate, especially through Our Lady and through the Holy Shroud, this aspect, that aspect, or such other aspect of God. Thus, I see with objectivity. I appreciate and analyze with the objectivity of a sound mind – thanks be to God – which sees reality as it is. But all that is expressive to me I consider in a certain way, with certain characteristics, which were made for me to consider. Thus, for me, as a man, conceived in original sin, a man of the twentieth century, the Holy Shroud presents a certain form of beauty, a certain form of attraction that it will not present to any other soul in the world, because Our Lord manifests Himself in a particular way to each soul on earth.

The Adoration of the Shepherds, Unidentified Cuzco Artist

As each soul is different from every other, as no two souls are equal, so each soul is supreme in a certain way and has qualities that God gave to no other. No matter how humble and modest a soul be, no matter that it be the size of one tenth of a needlepoint, it receives qualities from God that He gives to no other soul. So also, Our Lord manifests Himself to an individual in consonance with what He has given him, so he will love God in that way.

Each soul on earth has a mission to adore Our Lord Jesus Christ in light of a certain aspect of His ineffable, unfathomable, perfect holiness.

If we were to have a representation of Him here, we would all be seeing the same image, buy seeing something in accord with the holiness that God wants of each of us.


To Be Continued…

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 705

The Story Of The Little Drummer Boy


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