“All is calm, all is bright.” This week we watch and listen to another scene in the drama of “infinity dwindled to infancy,” as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins put it. All is not calm and bright as Joseph and Mary make their way to Bethlehem. All is bright but not calm in the inn where there was no room for them. All is not bright in the lowly stable where there was room for them and calm at the end of their long journey.
We are with the man Joseph who cannot do enough for his wife. We watch him fuss, building a warming fire, cleaning the manger. We hear the silent night, the animals eating and restlessly moving around. We hear in the stillness of the night, in the stillness of time, the sounds of the Timeless One taking time for us.
Where are you sitting or standing? Whom do you watch more closely? Are you attracted by a personal quality of these two humans as they marvel at this third human now lying in a place for feeding? Do you want to go outside, or closer? Does Mary say anything to you in word or gesture?
And now the calm is broken by the shepherds’ coming. They have seen brightness, and their calm has been broken by angels singing a song of peace on earth. Are you moved to tell them anything about what you have seen? It is a scene of wonder and pondering. Mary sits there turning these things over in her heart. She had said yes to mystery when she trusted in a promise. She has much of mystery this night. All the questions of “What is this?” and “How come?” rumble in her soul and you might sit next to her and taste your own “yes” and “Let it be done to me.”
Ignatius would have us be as real as we can be in the face of God’s choosing to be as real as he can be for us. We know the story well, but each year, each time we pray, the story becomes more and more our own. This is God telling us who we are and what he thinks of us. The hard part of this contemplation is familiarity. By being calm, on this silent night, our prayer will bring us anew the brightness that the shepherds had heard: Today, a child is born who will bring peace to all the world. Peace to those who enjoy God’s favor. Peace to those of goodwill. Peace, for Ignatius, is for those who will enjoy their good imaginations.
“Round yon virgin, mother and Child” we take our places and maybe we stand back a bit. We pray with the emptiness of our own stables waiting for the calm and bright to bless us.