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December 14, 2018 Friday 02:17:39 PM IST
CHAINS WE FORGE FOR OURSELVES

Here is the summary of A Christmas Carol (1843) by the great English storyteller Charles Dickens (1812-1870) which reminds us especially in the Christmas season that our business in life is more than making money for ourselves.

“A Merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” It was with great cheer Fred greeted his uncle Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas eve. The old miser didn’t believe in Christmas and what it stood for. So he said, “Bah! Humbug!” However, nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of Fred for Christmas. He invited his uncle for Christmas dinner at his home before he left his office.

A little later, two people came seeking donation for charity. Scrooge mercilessly sent them away giving nothing. He did the same thing with people who came singing Christmas carols. As it was getting late, he grudgingly gave his clerk Bob Cratchit Christmas day off and went home. As soon as he entered his apartment he closed the door behind him and double-locked it. Though Scrooge loved darkness he started a fire in his fire-place, put on his night dress and prepared gruel for dinner.

Self-made chain

As he began to sip his gruel, the bell in his room began to swing slowly and then it started ringing out loudly. It was followed by a clanking noise after which the ghost of his dead business partner Marley appeared to him fettered in a heavy metal chain made of padlocks, cash-boxes, ledgers and keys. Falling upon his knees, Scrooge cried, “Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?”

“It is required of every man,” the Ghost replied, “that the spirit within him should walk among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in this life, it is condemned do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world – oh, woe is me! – and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness.”

“You are fettered,” cried Scrooge. “Tell me why?” “I wear the chain I forged in life,” the Ghost answered. “I made it link by link and yard by yard; I girded it on my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?” As Scrooge trembled with fear the Ghost continued, “Or would you know the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full, as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas eves ago. You have labored on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!”

“My old friend Jacob Marley, tell me more,” Scrooge implored his business partner who had died seven years ago. “Speak comfort to me, Jacob!” “I have none to give,” the Ghost replied. “It comes from other regions…. My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house – mark me – in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!”

A drop in the ocean

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” said Scrooge. “Business!” cried the Ghost. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business! At this time of the rolling year, I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!”

As Scrooge continued to shiver and perspire, the Ghost said, “I am here tonight to warn you, that you have a chance and hope of escaping my fate.” The Ghost then told him that he would be visited by three Spirits who would help him shun the path which he tread. As promised, the Ghost of Christmas Past arrived first and guided Scrooge on a journey into his previous Christmases reminding of the good he had failed to do because of his lust for money. Then the Ghost of Present Christmas arrived and took him on a journey through which he saw the joy of people celebrating Christmas.

Chance to reform life

The last apparition was of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come who showed him how people were celebrating by pointing to a tombstone on which his name was written. Immediately he implored the Ghost to give him another chance in life and promised to reform his life. At that very moment he woke up and found himself tucked in his bed. Scrooge immediately reformed his ways by becoming a kind, compassionate, generous and loving person bringing cheer to the lives of hundreds of people including Fred and Crochit.

The story reminds us that mankind is our business; the common welfare is our business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence are all our businesses. It further reminds us that unless we make mankind and common welfare our business, we will be forging chains for ourselves with our lust for money and the lack of compassion and love like Marley did.

The apparition of Marley’s ghost made Scrooge realize he had to raise his eyes to the Star which would lead him to the abodes of the poor. Once he started doing this, there was no end to his joy; for him every day became like a Christmas day. To find the joy of Christmas, this is also what we need to do. Share what we have including our money, time and talents for the service of others. When we do this, the Prince of Peace will be born again in our hearts bringing joy and peace into our lives. Have a Blessed Christmas!


Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, CMI


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