December 24, 2010

Silent Night

Last year, when I wrote about Silent Night, I brushed past verses one and two of Silent Night like a desperate shopper and ran right for the third. Let's go back and atone for that particular sin (even if blogging on Christmas Eve with a two year old probably explains my brevity).
Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child.
I wish I could say that I always had a handle on this. When I was a child, I pledged allegiance to "one nation, under God, in the visible", because I had no idea what "indivisible" meant. I was getting a word wrong in the pledge; similarly, I was getting the punctuation wrong in Silent Night.

Maybe it was due to how we typically sing the song. When I sing Silent Night, I pause after "bright", and so I mentally place a period there. The night was silent, holy, calm, and bright. That seems like a complete thought.

Then why is yon virgin round? Did Mary have baby weight to work off? Maybe Joseph should have gotten her down from the donkey for part of the walk.

That's silly, of course. Those first three lines are one sentence - one complete thought. Seeing that allows us to understand the real message of the lyrics.

I've had quite a few Christmas Eve's so far.* I don't think many of them were silent or calm. In the broader view, that first Christmas Eve wasn't silent and calm either. Cattle were lowing. Angelic choirs were singing. A bunch of shepherds came running in out of the fields. Where is this silence and calm? It's round yon virgin mother and Child.

There in the stable, an island of brightness, holiness, and peace surrounds Mary and her Son. This night of all nights is peaceful and holy because of Christ. Since the fall in the garden, the world has not been peaceful. In our daily lives, even (or maybe especially) in the bustle of this special night, we are often not peaceful. But then we go to see Jesus, just as the shepherds and magi did.

There at Christmas Mass, on the altar, is Christ. There, once again, is the island of peace and calm in this fallen world. And He offers Himself in that Eucharist, to come into us, to bring that peace and calm and holiness inside our bodies and souls, where nothing in the hectic world can touch it.

* Four years ago, this Joseph was driving his pregnant wife to Bethlehem, PA on Christmas Eve. I should have stopped at the local inn and asked if they had room. They'd have been telling that story for years.

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