efore the appearance of the angels, before the shepherds and their flocks receive the Good News and well before the Magi arrive from the East, there is the silence of the Virgin Mother with her newborn Son at her breast protected by her husband, Joseph, the silent Patriarch of the Gospels. The only other witnesses to this moment are the noble creatures who share their shelter with their Lord. In the first moments of His life nothing disturbs the silence save the warm, hushed breath of the young couple, their Child and their four legged hosts. While in the silence Mary and Joseph reflect on their awesome vocations as father and mother of the Christ Child. The creatures protect their Creator from the wind and cold.
Then, in a moment the silence will be broken by the gentle music of the stars, the song of the heavenly choirs and the bleating of sleepy sheep forced on pilgrimage to Bethlehem by incredulous shepherds. Soon the hush returns as the shepherds stand in awe and wonder before the Lamb of God. Their own charges too take their cue from the stable denizens and still their bleating as they join the quiet adoration of the Author of Life. Just as Elijah recognized the voice of God at the entrance of the cave centuries before this moment, all creation, man and beast alike, hear in this night's silence the Word made flesh who dwelt among us.
Silence might be the most underrated, modern, human experience. Many believe that every thought they have ever conceived needs to be shared with virtually everyone. Our senses are inundated by drivers who believe that every other driver is thrilled to hear (and feel) their musical choices during the standstills of rush hour. How many home televisions are left on continually? How many family meals are punctuated by dings announcing the arrival of the most recent text message, then followed by the loud argument between parent and child or husband and wife about the rudeness of texting at the table?
Our modern life of noise shields us from the stillness of encountering the living God. Silence is not our enemy. Silence is our friend who provides refuge from the cacophony of daily living. It is the avenue to reflection and contemplation. The quiet is our companion as we examine our conscience at the end of the day or give thanks for the sunrise on the cold, dark winter morning. Silence is found in the recesses of our heart where we hear Jesus offering comfort, a word of mercy, and yes, sometimes a scolding for our fears and lack of trust. Silence is found on our knees before the manger as we realize that the almighty and ever living God emptied Himself and was born a vulnerable, little baby.
This Christmas let us unwrap God's precious gift of silence and use it every day throughout the new year. Do not underestimate its worth for our busy lives. In the quiet let us find patience, joy, and a safe harbor from the rough waters of daily life. In the silence we will find the Master and we will hear His word of love for us.
Rev. Jude DeAngelo, OFM Conv.
University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry