In the snow bound halls of the Imperial Hunting Lodge at Eckartsau, a family of exiles celebrated the last Christmas of the old world. The war that had racked that world for the past four years was finally over, and with it many things good and evil. In a year of world turmoil as the steadfast empire at the heart of Europe faded, the father of his peoples watched as his children exchanged small gifts under a glowing Christmas tree. The presents, as Gordon Brook-Shepherd relates in Uncrowned Emperor, were gifts from every land and nation of the Empire, lands now stirring with revolution and terror. Yet this night, this holy and silent night, all was as still as the new fallen snow. The Christ Child had come in the night, it was Christmas.
This Christmas, though there was no feast of goose or sausage in famine-starved Austria, pine-logs blazed and there was wine aplenty. The old cellar-keeper of the Imperial Palace sent his Emperor this gift to toast his health on this most holy night. And indeed, it was no idle toast, as Karl suffered from attack of the Spanish Influenza, a devastating disease soon to lay waste to a world. What a relief this Christmas must have been, as he relaxed in his armchair, watching his beautiful wife, Zita, his children, and his loyal supporters, toasting to his health and a new beginning for his peoples. All through the silent streets of Vienna toasts were raised to the old traditions, Emperor and homeland. Though many years of hardship lay ahead, tonight that was all forgotten, tonight existed in another world altogether. The Emperor of Heaven had sent His very own Son to this lowly sphere of earth, bringing the gifts of grace for all mankind.
As we celebrate this Octave of Christmas in the year of Our Lord 2018, much has changed since that long ago Christmas at Eckartsau. We have suffered through another World War, global Communism, crisis after crisis. And yet as we wait in this weary war-racked world, filled with uncertainty at the edge of a new year, we can look back at that family and their joyous reception of the Christ Child. He is come, come to earth to guide us to the true heavenly peace. Will we follow, will we trust in His guidance? Perhaps, if just for these eight days we forget the changing trivial world around us, and focus on the values which truly matter, God, family, friends, country, and our common humanity, we will find ourselves strengthened to face any coming trial. That family of exiles, soon to be driven from their homeland like the Holy Family, fleeing the rule of vile powers, were in their own celebration of the Christmas feast, strengthened to stand firm for the defense of Christendom in a century of trials. They faced the new world marked by that new year of 1919 with true courage and valor. We who would see the old traditions reborn are called to do the same, if we are truly Servants of the Child, guardians of the Light of His guiding Star.
One hundred years ago, Blessed Karl of Austria and his family celebrated their last Christmas together in their homeland, in a homely hunting lodge, warming the freezing cold with their love for God, one another, and their country. May we by his intercession, follow in his example this Christmastide, and grow evermore in all virtues, especially this coming year in the virtue of true patriotism. May we ever love the Christ Child as He has loved us, giving our whole lives to His glory.