As I noted last year, “Christmas in Christendom” is the 1967 essay by the late University of Dallas professor Frederick Wilhelmsen with which William Buckley closed his anthology Did You Ever See a Dream Walking? American Conservative Thought in the Twentieth Century. The essay was dropped from Keeping The Tablets: Modern American Conservative Thought, the later, revised edition of the anthology produced by Buckley and Charles Kesler in 1988.
It struck me when I read it in college as an eloquent expression of Catholic faith. For many years the essay was generally unavailable. Last year I found it had been posted on the Internet by the California Political Review and is now available online. Here is how Buckley introduced the essay in his anthology:
Frederick Wilhelmsen, professor of philosophy and author of The Metaphysics of Love, closes this volume with an essay, one part poetry, one part an act of devotion, which I reproduce here believing that no volume on conservatism in America should omit an example of felt Christianity, an example of how it feels to believe those ancient religious axioms which are, for so many, the intellectual and spiritual basis of conservatism. Wilhelmsen is not satisfied to praise religion. He sees it as Chesterton did, and he is the only American writing today who combines Chesterton’s power of historical discrimination and religious animation — the mystic enthusiasm of the religion of joy, despising the accretions of puritanical dourness, straining to adore: and succeeding.