The Crib at St Gabriel’s Church


It was a privilege to be allowed a little preview of the renovation work in progress on the crib in St Gabriel’s Church in Clontarf. This Dublin church holds a host of treasures.


I have written previously on the stunning mosaic of the Stations of the Cross that line the walls. This mosaic, depending on the day, and the light that catches it at a given moment, can reflect many moods, and transport you back to a different time and space. I only came upon the incredible Stations of the Cross a few years ago, and it was an equally pleasant surprise to discover the crib.

I was passing St Gabriel’s Church in the late evening about three weeks ago and noticed the lights were burning brightly in the church. Thinking I might catch the end of mass, I wandered in. However, the church was empty except for a handful of people busy at work. I met the sacristan Pearse Bell and he explained that the Monday maintenance men were busy at work, preparing the church for the Christmas celebrations, and in particular, the crib.
I first met Pearse when I wrote about the Stations of the Cross and he invited me to take a look at the crib, a work in progress and a labour of love.


The crib renovations are a work-in-progress. Work on the three statues of the Holy Family is complete and they are now transformed to their former glory. The rest of the crib figures will undergo similar transformation over the next few months. It is hoped to have all the figures restored for the 60th Jubilee celebrations to be held in the church during 2016. The stable itself is beautifully constructed in its own niche at the end of the church, and is so realistic it invites you to enter and join the Holy Family and the animals that inhabit the space. Speaking of the animals, the statue of the cow is particularly magnificent, its head tilted, its eyes resting on the Child. You have to resist the urge to reach out your hand to feel its breath warming the Baby Jesus, as told in the original Nativity story.


The statues, according to Matt Doyle, who is in charge of the renovations, were probably hand-carved in Germany and date back to the mid 20th century.

This beautiful crib is well worth a visit over the Christmas period. While there, enjoy the beauty of this church with its stain-glass window of the Angel Gabriel and the magnificent mosaic of the Stations of the Cross.



Maybe tomorrow . . .

Erma Bombeck once said that if a woman ever needed a few hours to herself after the hectic festive season, all she had to do was say aloud:

“I think I will take the Christmas Tree down.”

According to Erma you only have to say it once and the house will magically empty within minutes. I thought about it yesterday and just as we were all going to bed I announced that I would take the Christmas tree down in the morning and Hey Presto this morning I am sitting alone writing my Blog. The Christmas lights are on and winking at me. Santa is smiling, and my beautiful furry snowman is still sitting at the piano.

Truth is I find it hard to take down my decorations. I love them. My favourite day of the year is the day I dress the house for Christmas. I venture up to the dark attic and pull out the boxes filled with my Christmas decorations. I love to open them  and re-discover each year the little ones I’ve totally forgotten about and the ones I inherited from my mother that bring to mind such memories. She too loved her Christmas decorations.

So everyone will return this evening expecting the house to be back to normal, whatever that is. But I silently wish that this was normal; being surrounded by little toys and lights that bring such delight to everyone who comes into the house.

So maybe tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take them down. But at this moment there is a tiny Santa train running around the base of the tree and I haven’t the heart to stop it. Besides the Three Wise Men have just arrived at the manger and I think it would be very rude of me to pack them off so soon after their long journey.

The Toy Shop


The shop is no longer there

The tiny toy shop, a converted sitting room in her house

Long demolished with the street

In a wave of progress.

It was where I learned my manners, my moralitiés

In all the traditions of a 15th century Perrault tale,

A Red-riding-hood fantasy

That warns not to stray from the known path

I, being the child I was, found it hard to do that.


Christmas in my grand-aunt’s shop was magic

An Aladdin’s cave of Santas and sleighs and candy canes

All rolled up into one,

Victorian mid-terrace residence

Tinsel and lights, the scent of cinnamon and pine

colourful garlands, and baubles,

The taste of pudding,

Jangling, jingle bells . . .


Two ornamental snow bears guarded the threshold

To the rooms beyond where I strayed,

A little Tinkerbell

In my own warm, fuzzy, fairyland that day

Until I heard her shrill voice call,

Chasing down the narrow hall

To tell me not to touch a thing,

Break it and,

She’d make my father pay.


Yet on I roamed from room to room

And wandered here and there

But as I went the air grew chill

I can recall that feeling still

My feet and hands icy . . . numb,

But I could hear unseen angels sing

And a little drummer drum.


On, on I went and turned a key

into a room,

So pristine,

As if not one living thing

Had ventured there before.

I stopped wide-eyed and stared in awe

At a cabinet almost bare, except

Upon it stood a crystal ball,

gold studded,

From where the music filled the air,

That held me enchanted in its spell.

carolling the joy

Noel Nouvelet Noel


As if bewitched I reached to grasp the glittering sphere

To shake the snow, to watch it


And twirl

And fall,

To hold it to my ear

To listen

If I could hear the music play more clear

But my hands were trembling, freezing cold, and

I could not grasp the glistering globe


Shattering glass makes music all its own.

It chimes like a steeple bell . . .

And I swear I can hear it still.

Still see the snow fall, spill everywhere,

Still see the baby Jesus on an icy floor

Even as my father reached for his wallet,

Vain searching for the money that was not there to pay

Even as the music played on

Noel Nouvelet Noel chantons ici


The Fallen Angel and the broken computer

Song of the Angels by William Bouguereau, 1881.

Song of the Angels by William Bouguereau, 1881. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My desk top computer has had a fatal attack. It wasn’t totally unexpected as it’s been causing problems for a while. But today it suddenly began to burn somewhere inside and you wouldn’t believe the smoke. Hubby being the computer expert here only managed to rescue some of my files, but not before he told me that it was a hard lesson for me and that he had been telling me to back up my files for ages and that I was asking too much of the computer, and he says towards the end of the lecture, “you know what happens when you ask too much of something?”

“What?” I ask.

“It overheats. Burns out.” he says calmly, “It simply stops working.”

In my badness I think hubby is no longer talking about the computer. I think he is talking about himself. He doesn’t like too much pressure at Christmas. He likes to relax. Play music. I think he thinks I’m asking him to do too much. Which I guarantee I’m not. Anyway to be honest it caused a little bit of tension. But I forgave him. It being the season of goodwill. However it did start me thinking about Christmas, and that time of year so I thought I’d include my poem, (still a work in progress) about the first Christmas and forgiveness.

 The Fallen Angel

I heard your journey took you

to a stable at Bethlehem

and I heard you came to rest outside,

as you fell from Heaven to Hell.

I heard you lingered there awhile

wrapped in the evening shade,

With tears rolling down your stricken face,

I heard you were afraid.

Then out of the stark dark night

a star lit up the sky,

and in the hush of silence

you heard a baby cry.

I heard that as you watched the scene

your wings about you furled

shepherds came and knelt before

the Saviour of our world.

But you just stood there gazing

at Mary’s infant Son, and then,

I heard you cried –

“My God, what have I done?

I’ll never see the Child who lies

within the stable bare, And though

I know He will forgive

I won’t see His forgiveness there.”

I heard that as the baby lay

within His manger bed

among the lowing cattle

He heard what you had said,

and then, I heard he whispered,

“little angel, come shelter close to me,

for see, I hold my arms out

in welcome for thee.”

I heard that as Mary watched,

she saw the Infant smile with joy

And then she saw an angel

kneel down before the boy.

Eithne Reynolds ©

The River at Bethlehem


Krippe crib family w 3wisemen

Krippe crib family w 3wisemen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The River at Bethlehem

“I’ve lost my bridge to the crib,” I say to hubby. The place is a mess with the Christmas decorations and empty boxes. I’m putting up the crib and I bought a lovely little bridge at a market in Nice when I was over there during the summer. I wanted to put it in the crib so that the three wise men could walk over it when they arrived at Bethlehem on the 6th of January. But I’d lost the bridge. One minute I had it in my hand and the next it was missing.

“Did you put my bridge somewhere,” I shout at hubby this time, because when I go into the sitting-room he’s there in the middle of the chaos with his feet tapping and  his headphones wrapped around his head listening to his music, trying to block out the noise I’ve been making. I’d dropped a bag of my artificial snow I had for the crib all over the carpet and I had to vacuum the place. I think it was when I went looking for the vacuum cleaner that I managed to put the bridge out of my hand somewhere.

“Not alone do I think you’ve lost the bridge,” says hubby irritated at the intrusion into his music world, “I think you’ve lost your marbles. What do you need a bridge in the crib for anyway?”

I explain that I need it to get the three wise men across the river to the crib on the 6th of January.

“What river?” he asks.

“I made a paper river for the bridge,” I smile happy with myself. I show him my paper river. “There’s not much point in having a bridge if you don’t have a river.” I say. “I made this and now I need the bridge and I can’t find it.”

“Darling,” he says.

As soon as he uses the word darling in that tone I know he’s going to tell me something that he thinks I don’t know. He has his head phones poised ready to put back on his head to indicate this is the end of the conversation and the search for the bridge. “Darling,” he repeats, “the three wise men trekked for miles and miles across a desert. You don’t need a bridge. There never was a river.”

“Well,” I say, storming out of the room, waving my paper river at him, “there’ll be one in a minute.”

A Message for Santa

Christmas tree

Christmas tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tear the paper, look and see

What’s hidden under the Christmas Tree,

Santa’s been, and Rudolf too,

For the carrot’s gone

That we left him to chew.

And there’s soot on the carpet

Oh Lord! What a mess!

And Mammy had vacuumed

And the place looked its best.

But Santa’s well gone

And he can’t hear Mam shout,

If  she caught him this minute

She’d give him a clout.

So we must leave a message

For Santa so dear

Could you Please leave your boots,

On the rooftop

Next year.


© Eithne Reynolds