Silent night

Out walking late at night—calm, still air, crisp enough to keep you alert, bright under a near-full moon—not a sound but my shoes soft crunching on the street, nothing else moving (if you don’t count my über-spazzy little Jack Russell, Connor, whom you don’t “walk” so much as “manage at the end of a leash”, because he is an “adorable maniac”; but he himself is a whole other story, yet he was the reason I was walking outside so late).

This blog post brought to you by Connor, who needed "walkies".

Silent night. Approaching Christmas as we are at this time, all is calm, all is bright—yet here I am also in a place on the edge of a vast, rather sparsely-populated area, dark enough that the only lights are an occasional window peeking through trees, and the ambient glow of cities many miles to the north and south. And as I looked west across even darker open country, I was looking across about 1200 miles toward home, because right now I am living very far from there.

And the peace, but also the quietness, darkness, and distance, spoke softly about other people on this silent night: What are all the stories of people in this world—silent except to those who are right around them, or if by some chance part of their stories are published in print or online? (And even then, no one on Earth but themselves can know the full stories of their own lives.) Silence for some people is indeed peace and blessedness; for others, silence can be the only response they are capable of on receiving some unexpected weight of news—about loved ones, about job or home. Silence can be the heart searching for the right words, the right concepts even to wrap itself around, in order to begin to comprehend something deeply unsettling; it can be the heart sharing in the silence that surely heaven also experiences, when a loved one slips from this life into the next. Silence can be the heart wondering where everyone else has gone, when no one, no place, nothing familiar seems to be anywhere near.

But silence does not mean emptiness, or void. Even deep space, which we used to think was largely void, turns out to be alive, churning with particles and forces in a rich cosmic symphony; and its silence is only to our teeny ears, designed to hear things only through more substantial mediums like air, water, or sometimes solid objects (like your apartment or hotel wall, when neighbors are oblivious to the fact that they’re “entertaining” the community). Here, for example, are some of the actual sounds, almost music, emanating from various bodies in our solar system (a 7 minute video; the first 30 seconds or so actually are silent):

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gifts are given! We can look up at the night heavens, and think the lights there are soaring in elegant silence—or that we are left in utter isolation beneath an unreachable cosmos—but even there we are surrounded by a wealth of song.

Then—still on my night walk—I looked back down at Earth, draped in black velvet and shades of charcoal but also washed with the moon’s pale sapphire light, and all the people in the world around me—unseen, silent from where I stood—came to mind again. And more deeply and softly than the dark quietness and far distance, now there spoke to me the closeness:

I am not far from any of you. In me you live and move and have your being.

I wanted them to know that. I am sure God wanted them to know that far more than I could ever want it. I would wish for people to know they are not left alone, that just as we are immersed in the music of the heavens whether or not we know it, we are also immersed in God even when we’ve forgotten it, or when life has led us to think we are isolated out under a dark sky, in a desolate wilderness. Maybe I’ve let a few other people know that now, by writing this; but now I also have more of an idea how to let people know it whenever I encounter them, anywhere, besides through this article.

And, maybe, you reading this now also know a little more that you can pass along to others, who may be standing alone in the dark as it seems to them, enveloped in the music of heaven but not realizing it. Because another part of the way God immerses us in himself is through one another, through you and me ourselves as we touch others’ hearts and lives.

We may not know the music is enveloping us; when we hear it, we may not even understand the words. But on that silent night, O how silently you and all others are loved.

Oíche chiúin, oíche Mhic Dé, [Silent night, night of God’s Son,]
cách ‘na suan dís araon, [soundly in slumber, the pair together,]
dís is dílse ‘faire le spéis [the pair and love, watching with affection]
naoín beag gnaoigheal, [the small bright beautiful child,]
ceananntais caomh, [darling little one,]

Críost, ‘na chodhladh go séimh, [Christ, calmly asleep,]
Críost, ‘na chodhladh go séimh. [Christ, calmly asleep.]

Oíche chiúin, oíche Mhic Dé, [Silent night, night of God’s Son,]
aoirí ar dtús chuala ‘n scéal; [shepherds first heard the tale;]
Allelúia aingeal ag glaoch, [the angels crying out Alleluia,]
cantain suairc i ngar is i gcéin; [lovely chanting near and far;]

Críost an Slánaitheoir Féin, [Christ, the Savior himself,]
Críost an Slánaitheoir Féin. [Christ, the Savior himself.]

Oíche chiúin, oíche Mhic Dé, [Silent night, night of God’s Son,]
cách ‘na suan dís araon, [soundly in slumber, the pair together,]
dís is dílse ‘faire le spéis [the pair and love, watching with affection]
naoín beag gnaoigheal, [the small bright beautiful child,]
ceananntais caomh, [darling little one,]

Críost, ‘na chodhladh go séimh, [Christ, calmly asleep,]
Críost, ‘na chodhladh go séimh. [Christ, calmly asleep.]

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2 Responses to Silent night

  1. kelye says:

    thank you. i came alittle closer to God this morning. May I listen closer.

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