Wednesday, December 06, 2006

From Bethlehem to Bedlam

In England at the commencement of the 15th century there was a priory where monks and nuns would take refuge and pray. They were part of the Order of the Star of Bethlehem, so the Christ child and the obedient faith of Mary became the focus of their tradition.

In time as they reflected on the gospel and the message of Christmas they realised not that it was too good to be true, but it was so good it had to be true and that it had to be shared with others.

Instead of remaining in the cloisters in the comfort of their communion with God, they recognised that God was calling them to open the doors and welcome in people who were in need.

In time this monastery took in lots of people especially those who were mentally sick and had nowhere to go. It became the Bethlehem Hospital in London, in fact the first psychiatric hospital in that city, although it was then called a lunatic asylum.

Over the years the word 'Bethlehem' became shortened. When people slurred their words 'Bethlehem' became 'bedlam.' And bedlam became the name for a mental asylum and it has become the name for a scene of wild confusion and uproar.

From Bethlehem to Bedlam! The Christmas story begins at Bethlehem where we worship and adore and bring our gifts to the Christ child.

From there we must open the doors to the bedlam of this world. Entering into the madness and disorder with peace and care.

Image: Bethlehem Hospital, Bromley, London.