Every Wednesday night, I steal away to a quiet, dim-lit chapel to reflect on the day’s events. In the candlelight’s glow, I find my peace replenished and God’s consoling voice.
We need quiet to hear God. In turbulence, we must strain to discern the divine. Though we often think the loudest voices win the world, the cacophony blocks us from hearing much of anything, let alone God.
In the din of the day, what can awaken us and hold our ear? Perhaps, as one radio commentator suggested, it is the holy. In a world lit loudly, only something opposite – something pure – can seize our utmost attention, break through our bitterness, and realign our soul.
Think of the heroes of this moment – those quietly working away in essential services to save and maintain lives, only now really being noticed. Their silent sacrifices have been mostly hidden yet are nothing new.
On the first Christmas eve, Jesus’ parents fled the noise of the city in search of a quiet resting place to bear the Savior. Finding no room at the inn, they settled, instead, on a cold cavern, a stable meant for animals. And yet, one silent night, the holiest moment in history happened there.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen once analogized the inn denied God as the “gathering place of public opinion, the focal point of the world’s moods, the residence of the worldly, the rallying place of the fashionable.” Conversely, the stable where Jesus was born was “for outcasts, the refuge of beasts, and the shelter of the valueless.”
As the world clamored on, in a dank place shared with animals, God silently slipped through a crevice and made an unprecedented appearance.
However disappointing humanity’s welcome, Christ’s entrance had to stand in contrast to the clanging of those needing him. Only such stark disparity could cause them to pause long enough to notice, and approach.
God chose to come here, but away from the commotion, calling to mind the beginning of time, when the only thing audible was God and his thoughts. Like those who give life now, mostly undetected, God does his best work in the quiet.
As Sheen further noted, the world did not expect to find God “laid on coarse straw and warmed by the breath of oxen.” Nor did it guess that “He who could make a canopy of stars” would be born “shielded from a stormy sky by the roof of a stable.”
If the world that first discovered Jesus found him in the most unexpected of places, are we to find him also in such a place, away from the modern-day, noise-driven newsfeed?
As Christmas Eve dawns, snowflakes gently falling and stars twinkling with hope in our minds, let us strain to hear silent night anew, and what the one whose cry pierces it wishes to whisper.
We often miss the moments meant as gift. This Christmas, may you find the hidden holy, and, with hearts open, hold in your hands the present of heavenly peace.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Dec. 21, 2020.]
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