“Whilst deep silence dwelt on all things here below, and the night was in the midst of its course, the almighty Word came down from his throne. Alleluia!” Over the centuries, the Church, seeing in this passage from Wisdom 18:14-15 a description of Christmas night, incorporated it into the liturgical prayers for the Advent and Christmas season.
It echoed and re-echoed in my mind during the month of December as I accompanied a close relative on her journey to the close of her earthly life. What struck me most in those days was Wisdom’s portrayal of the eloquence of the night’s silence, the contrast between its stillness and the divine Word who “came down” and spoke all God has to say, His complete expression of love.
One of my relative’s health conditions makes it hard for her to speak aloud, so she commonly whispers. My family found ourselves whispering when we spoke to her — and whispering at other times and in other parts of the house. It was not necessary but, in some sense, felt right: we were each aware of the mystery unfolding within her — the mystery of the Creator calling His creation back to Himself — and subdued voices better reflected our roles in that mystery.
Quiet conversation was not the only way silence pervaded our Advent and Christmas. Our loved one herself spoke more and more rarely. Even when we knew her to be awake and alert, she sometimes did not respond to us. She passed most of her hours in a deep interior silence. And, within that silence, I knew God was mightily at work in her soul.
With the celebrations of Epiphany and the Lord’s Baptism this month, the Church ended the Christmas season and began Ordinary Time. But have we learned from Christmas night how to hear Him, and to express Him, in the silence of our daily lives?
Will we make time and space for Him to speak to us this year? Maybe just five minutes of our commute when we would otherwise be listening to music or a podcast, or five minutes before bedtime spent reading Scripture.
And will we speak His tenderness through silent gestures like a smile, or a small hidden sacrifice that makes the day more beautiful for another? There is often no need to say anything. In the Host, He speaks not a word. Maybe this is because no combination of words could express His burning love and mercy as clearly as does His meek, silent Presence in the tabernacle.
Sr. Maria Veritas Marks is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.