what it means to have a past

But over the decades you have provided for us such incomparably beautiful Christmases that my thankful remembrance of them is strong enough to light up one dark Christmas. Only such times can really reveal what it means to have a past and an inner heritage that is independent of chance and the changing of the times. The awareness of a spiritual tradition that reaches through the centuries gives one a certain feeling of security in the face of all transitory difficulties.

In a prison letter from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his parents, December 17, 1943. (From page 15 of God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas from the writings of Bonhoeffer, translated by O.C. Dean Jr. and edited by Jana Riess.)