Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, Dec 25, 2013, May You Hear Christmas, Fr. Ken Hughes, SJ

Christmas Day (Dawn)  St. Mary of the Angels  12/25/13

Isaiah 62:11-12;  Titus 3:4-7;  Luke 2:1-20 (combined Gospel readings)


The average snowfall for December is 6 inches.  We have almost doubled that already.  Much of it has melted now but the early snowfall  reminded me of a poem by Alan Harris which I first read a year ago entitled, “Listening to Christmas.”


He begins his poem by asking:


   “Have you ever heard snow?

     Not the howling wind of a blizzard.

     not the [crunching] of snow underfoot,

     but the actual falling of snow?”


Then, he goes on:


   “Have you ever heard Christmas?

     Not the traffic noises in the city,

     not the bells and hymns and carols,

     beautiful as they are,

     not even the laughter of your children

     as they open their presents –

     but Christmas itself?”


And then, going deeper, he questions:


   “Have you been by yourself

     and just sat and listened to the silence within,

     patiently, without letting the mind

     race to the next Christmas chore?”


And, finally, he responds,


    “Perhaps if you have,

     you felt the pulse of all humanity

     beating in your heart.


     Perhaps you noticed

     an outflowing of love

     for all your brothers and sisters

     on the earth,

     a soft sense of Oneness

     with all that lives.”


Listening to snow, listening to Christmas, listening to the silence within --  these are the deeper invitations of this Christmas Season.


All year we have been listening to noise:


  •  The noise of guns in Middle East and Africa, and right here in the streets of Roxbury.


  •  The noise of the two bombs exploding at the final line of the Boston Marathon.


  •  The noise of politicians filibustering in order to close down and disgrace our nation.


  •  The noise of talk show hosts who think that Pope Francis is a communist and that poor people are inferior.


  •  Even the noise of cheering or jeering crowds at Sunday afternoon football, a game I love so much to watch!


  • And more joyful noises: Like Fenway Park throughout all of September.


    Last Sunday afternoon, I attended The Christmas Holiday Pops Concert with Keith Lockhart conducting the orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus at Symphony Hall. This is becoming a family tradition.  It was an engaging, lively, creative concert and ended with a sing-a-long of familiar Christmas songs.  We concluded with “Jingle Bells,” a happy, noisy song, but I thought a rather superficial note to end on and felt somewhat “let down.”  However, after a standing ovation, Keith returned to the podium and led orchestra, chorus and audience in “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”  Above the stage a picture of our world taken from outer space was unfurled. Immediately, a more sober and reflective mood settled on the audience.  Last year, we all sang out of the grief of Newtown.  This year, I thought mostly of the terrible civil war in Syria, and, more at home, of the Boston Marathon Tragedy.


     The Christmas story, too, has its happy voices of angels and shepherds.  Interestingly, the census taking power of Caesar Augustus did not count either of them! The angels flew above Caesar’s power.  The shepherds, scattered over the hillsides, were beyond and beneath his power.  So, the angels sang, and the shepherds glorified and praised!  There was a noisy, exciting rushing to Bethlehem!


    But, then, we are told, that “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”  There, in her inner silence, she pondered the deep mystery of God’s humbling and vulnerable birth in this tumultuous, violent and noisy world. 


    Only in silence can we touch that “outflowing of love for all [our] brothers and sisters on the earth” and touch that “soft sense of Oneness with all that lives.”


    To reach such a love and peace which will embrace all people and bind us to the larger world, we, too, like Mary, need to take some time to enter our own inner silence, and so to experience more fully the great love which God shows us, and the deep peace which God offers us through his birth as Emmanuel.


    And so we end with the final exhortation of Harris’ poem:


       “In the silence of a snowy night,

         listen intently, holding your breath,

         and you may hear snow on snow.


         Serene, alone,

         undisturbed by thought,

         listen to the silence in your heart,

         and you may hear Christmas.”



                                                     Kenneth J. Hughes, SJ

                                                     Brighton, Mass.  12/25/13

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