Christmas is approaching and we are invited to reflect on the wonders and at the same time the singleness of the birth of God made man in a cave in Bethlehem, more than two thousand years ago. The story of our salvation begins in the solitude of this unique moment, only in the presence of Joseph and Mary who, deeply moved, contemplated that newborn child. How much love, how much tenderness was involved in that moment! Everything happened without noise, without fanfare, in the silence of a happy night. The first lesson we can draw from the manger is the need for silence to contemplate God. Without silence, the heart is unable to admire the mysteries of the Father, who acts and speaks in silence. Without silence there is no interior life, there is no way to raise the soul to the supernatural world, it is impossible to find God. Whoever escapes from silence, flees from himself, runs from God. In order to achieve this inner silence, it is first necessary to silence the exterior, to silence the senses, to quiet the heart. Pope Francis, in the Apostolical Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, teaches us:
“We all have need of this silence, filled with the presence of him who is adored. Trust-filled prayer is a response of a heart open to encountering God face to face, where all is peaceful and the quiet voice of the Lord can be heard in the midst of silence.” (GE 149)
And he invites us to a deep reflection:
“Are there moments when you place yourself quietly in the Lord’s presence, when you calmly spend time with him, when you bask in his gaze? Do you let his fire inflame your heart? Unless you let him warm you more and more with his love and tenderness, you will not catch fire. How will you then be able to set the hearts of others on fire by your words and witness?" (GE 151)
Thus, we need to learn to silence ourselves to meet our Father, who wants to relate to us. Our world is very agitated, we have visual and sound stimuli everywhere, so we need to make small mortifications of our senses, renouncing some of those photos, those videos, the news. Pulling off the headset, turning off the radio and the television, slowing our curiosity. This will help us achieve the necessary silence and serenity that the control of the passions gives us in order to get in tune with our Creator.
Another great lesson of the manger is humility. Our almighty God humbled himself by assuming our human nature, being born poor, in a cave, and placed in a simple manger. We must learn to be humble, to follow the example of Jesus. God uses the humble for great things. Pope Francis continues to teach:
“Humility can only take root in the heart through humiliations. Without them, there is no humility or holiness. If you are unable to suffer and offer up a few humiliations, you are not humble and you are not on the path to holiness. (…) Humiliation makes you resemble Jesus; it is an unavoidable aspect of the imitation of Christ. For “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet 2:21)” (GE 118)
Let us ask this Christmas the great gift of learning to be silent and pray with much introspection and also the grace to be humble and grateful for the many gifts and blessings we receive daily.