The “Silent Night” that begins with Christmas Eve is actually a quite loud and noisy one (and I am not even thinking of family gatherings or parties here). In church too, there are lots of services, singing, readings, and the obligatory “Silent Night, Holy Night” – especially this year, as the hymn turns 200 years old. There are also many words, especially the hundreds of thousands of homiletical attempts to spell out what it means that the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us.
Which leads me to wonder: How many Christmas homilies from years past do you remember? In truth, I remember only one — mostly for its spectacular failure to deliver what I wanted it to. When I was growing up, our parish priest got up at one Midnight Mass to preach and opened with a quote from the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” This sentence he followed with a pregnant pause. I sat up expectantly, wanting the priest simply to turn around and sit down again, and invite us into silent contemplation of the mystery of this, the “silent” night. Sadly, that was not to be, and we were instead treated to many, many words – none of which I can remember.
So, as we approach this year’s Christmas Eve, I wonder what experiences people have with putting the “silent” back into “Silent Night”?