This Gentle Silence- Christmas Eve 2018


“For while gentle silence enveloped all things,

And night in its swift course was not half gone,

Thy all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from thy royal throne.”

(Wisdom: 18: 14-15)


Imagine that the year is 1250 – some 800 years ago. Imagine that we are in the city of  Assisi.  Imagine that it’s Christmas eve and the Abbess and founder of the Poor Clares, she who will become St.Clare of Assisi, lies ill in bed at the convent.  She is alone.

She has sent all the other Sisters – even those who were taking care of her – to the chapel to attend the Christmas midnight mass. It was then – as it is now – a special time and St.Clare wanted all of the sisters to be there.  God had promised St. Clare that he would always be with her.

St.Clare prayed to God that he keep his promise. Suddenly the wall of her small cell became what we would now call a large screen TV and there in front of her in High Definition and Stereo Sound was the Mass her sisters were attending. God kept his promise to St. Clare in a unique way.  .

You might say it was the first televised midnight mass. And it is for this reason that St.Clare is the patron saint of television and why she is often portrayed with a TV set at her feet.

God was faithful to his promise to be with St. Clare – in a most spectacular way. But God has promised us all that he will always be with us. He is our God, we are his people.

Throughout Advent we hear the message of scripture to prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ, to change those things in our lives which would prevent us from truly celebrating Christmas, from being ready to receive his message of love and hope.

Scripture’s Book of Wisdom puts it this way:  ““For while gentle silence enveloped all things, And night in its swift course was not half gone, Thy all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from thy royal throne.”

This coming Christmas eve, the promise made by God to the Jewish people, to Mary, to St Clare and to all of us will once again be fulfilled with the birth of a child in the village of Bethlehem. And in the midst of this most gentle and holy night the world springs to new life with the promise of joy and peace that this birth announces

Even if we spent the weeks of Advent lamenting the crass commercialism our society has made of Christmas, and generally being so stressed out that we become grouches –  like the grinch who stole Christmas – even if all of these are true, the Christ Child does not care. He will still be here.

You see, God fulfills his promise whether we put up a tree, a crib, a stocking, or nothing at all; whether we will spend this Christmas in a place decorated to the rafters with cedar boughs and velvet ribbons or in a bare room.

Keeping God’s promise, the Christ Child comes to every one of us – no matter what our situation – whether we will be with family or friends or by ourselves – the Christ Child comes to us –we will not be alone. And he brings us a message.

A message which says that Christ is born this day not just to save us from our sin, our greed, our pride, and all the failings we recognize in ourselves and those around us.

Christ is also born to save us for a life of eternal joy, a life that we will one day in the fullness of time understand and appreciate. The joy and peace of our Christmas day is really meant to be but a taste of that time to come.

And so, this Christmas enjoy the people, the presents, the food, the music, and all else but remember that the reason for this joy this day is the message that Christ brought us with his birth.

God has fulfilled his promise, let us fulfill ours to him by accepting the message of the new born child. Christ tells us that love is better than hate, peace is better than war, and that happiness awaits those who follow love and peace.

As St. Basil wrote many centuries ago – Let us dance with the angels and sing, today a Saviour has been born to us. May it be indeed a Merry and Blessed Christmas for all of us!

John Pungente, SJ, the editor of igNation, is looking forward to a sabbatical in 2019. . He is currently doing research with Monty Williams, SJ for a third book in the series "Finding God in the Dark".

  • Ellen E. Ferrara
    Posted at 05:26h, 24 December Reply

    A thought written a few years ago on “The Visitation”

    Leap in us Jesus………….quicken within the ‘womb’ of our hearts
    awareness of your Presence
    That we may give birth to Love and endure by Your grace
    the labor pains of life.

    May I put into practice your beautiful words.
    Blessings on your studies.
    Lyn Ferrara

  • Barbara Lewis
    Posted at 07:44h, 24 December Reply

    “God has fulfilled his promise. Let us fulfill ours to him by accepting the message of the newborn child.”
    Trusting that we are called to bring love to life
    we open our heart
    we welcome the bounty God offers us
    we embrace our sister and brother
    along the way
    darkness embraces our insufficiency with his generous bounty
    he peoples us
    Merry Christmas Eve, Canadian Jesuit family

  • Vince Filo-Carroll
    Posted at 08:22h, 24 December Reply

    Thank you, John, for such a beautiful reflection. It has come just at the right moment, at a rather difficult time for me and my family. My father, a deacon, died just this past Thursday. Your words, the organization, and the syntax remind me of his writing and homily style-erudite, cogent and accessible-thank you again, John, and indeed a Blessed and Happy Christmas to you.

    • John J. Pungente, SJ
      Posted at 16:01h, 24 December Reply

      So very sorry to hear of your father’s death. My condolences to you and your family. I will remember all of you in my Christmas Mass. God bless you!

  • Sharon Walters
    Posted at 09:06h, 24 December Reply


  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 10:19h, 24 December Reply

    Thank you John! Merry Christmas!

  • Roger Yaworski, SJ
    Posted at 11:26h, 24 December Reply

    Thanks John, Merry Christmas.

  • Bernard Carroll, SJ
    Posted at 10:35h, 25 December Reply

    Merry Christmas and thank you John. The Trinity constantly reaches out to all creation to have us know that God’s only desire is to share God’s very self with everyone and everything always and everywhere. Emmanuel, God with us. Alléluia!

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