Tuesday, December 6, 2016
A ROMANTICIZED SILENCE
GOLAN HEIGHTS SNOW, ISRAEL
There is a great sense of peace when you find yourself safely within the warmth of home while snow is gently falling outside the frosted windows. As the snowflakes gently settle on every inert and living form, they morph into one of nature’s best sound absorbers. The winter moonlight sparkles over the ice crystals and even the persistent falling of these crystalline visitors is muffled by the white landscape.
The lyrics to the classic song, Silent Night, were composed by a young priest prior to his arrival at the St. Nicolas parish church in the Austrian village of Obemdorf. A blizzard had stranded the tiny village the same day the church discovered that their organ was broken. He took the lyrics to the schoolmaster and organist in a nearby village to compose a melody for guitar accompaniment. They performed the song for the first time on Christmas Eve in 1818 in the quiet aftermath of the blizzard.
The first stanza perfectly sets the mood for the lullaby we all know and sing on Christmas Eve today:
Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Our February trip into the Holy Land included a drive up into the legendary Golan Heights. The mountains were covered in fresh snow, somewhat camouflaging the defensive radar installations and the United Nations camp in the valley below. The scene from the warm comfort of our tour bus belied the tensions and conflict just across the Syrian border and not all that far from the place of this holy birth.
I recently learned that this song was sung simultaneously by the German and English troops during the World War I Christmas truce of 1914. The soldiers on both sides of the trenches knew the song and undoubtedly had sung it on many Christmas Eve services in a more peaceful past. And here we are one hundred years later in the midst of another war still romanticizing a night that was not so peaceful for those young soldiers and was quite probably not so peaceful for the young family on that night two thousand years ago.