“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, more focused edition of the anthology produced by Buckley and Charles Kesler in 1988.
It struck me when I read it in college as a particularly eloquent expression of Catholic faith. Over the past few years I’ve unsuccessfully looked around for it on the Internet so that I might bring it to the attention of our readers celebrating Christmas. This year I find that it has just been posted by the California Political Review and is thus available for the first time in many years. 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.