“While all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her swift course, thine almighty Word, O Lord, leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne.”
- Wisdom 18
Frequently, throughout the mysterious unfolding of the dramatic events of the redemption of mankind, God has used the gentleness of the night as the setting of His great and mighty acts. It’s as though God, in His kindness and love for us, doesn’t want to startle us with the intensity of His glory, and so He covers His activity with the night.
When the children of Israel were released from bondage in Egypt, the angel of death passed over them during the night; while they were on their journey to the Promised Land, the Lord sent life-giving manna during the night; Jesus instituted the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and imparted the priesthood after the sun had set and the shadows of evening had come upon Him and His apostles; the Crucifixion itself, even though it took place in the midst of the day, brought a cover of darkness at its moment of climax; the resurrection of the Lord, breaking the bonds of Satan, took place while it was yet dark. And the momentous event of this holy season, when Almighty God was born as Man of the Virgin Mary, took place, not in the glare of sunshine, but in the midst of the silence of night.
How different these events would have been if we could have planned them. We would think they call for parades, for loud announcements, for a blazing sun and for great activity! In a world which has been shrunk by the media, where the desire is to be noticed, where the very idea of self-effacement brings discomfort, God comes among us in a way which seems strange—a way which is difficult for many to accept. We’ve grown accustomed to thinking that humility must have ulterior motives, and that silence is simply an absence of sound. But how like God it is, to enter the world when so few were looking, to send His Word down from heaven when so few had ears to hear. He works this way today, too, for He touches us when we least expect it, giving hope and comfort and love when those things seem not to be within reach.
Perhaps it’s not so strange, after all, that God should come in darkness, for it tells us most eloquently that God is Light—the Light that drives darkness from our path. In the midst of the darkness of this world, our Holy Mother the Church takes us by the hand and leads us towards the Light which was born in Bethlehem, towards the Light which could not be forever extinguished on Calvary, towards the Light which burst forth from the tomb on the third day. It is darkness which makes us see the glow of a candle, just as it is our own realization of the darkness of our sinfulness that makes us reach out towards the Light which is Christ.
Could it be that the confusion which we see around us, whether it is confusion in the world or confusion within our own household of faith, is to serve the same purpose? Perhaps, in the midst of it all, God is urging us on by His own example, to quietly, but faithfully, bring the Light of His word to illuminate the darkness. Rather than turning on the glare of indignation and self-righteousness, which only makes the shadows more harsh, perhaps God would have us hold up the simple light of His truth, as it is manifested in our blessed Lord Jesus.
When God was born in Bethlehem, He made a poor stable to be His glorious tabernacle. As He carried out His earthly ministry, the world was hallowed anew as His dwelling-place, and as He lives within each of us, so we are His temples. Just as a candle burns before the tabernacle in every Catholic Church, indicating that Jesus the Light is truly there, so our faith, which we express by words and deeds, serves as a spiritual candle burning before the eyes of the world, proclaiming to all that Jesus our Lord is here! He is the God who came at night to drive the darkness away forever. May we, by faithfully reflecting the Light of Christ, banish darkness from our own lives, and from the night which surrounds us.