That song was always my favorite Christmas tune. Is it ironic that silence can be so beautifully described in sound? No. Just as hearing a story can be just as moving as — sometimes even more moving than — experiencing the event it describes, “Silent Night” has always captured for me the magic of that silent night.
All is calm. All is bright around that virgin over there with her baby. Holy infant — tender, mild, not a warrior, not a fearsome despot. His father, whose humble occupation is creator of all things, wills that his child should sleep, as babies are wont to do, with a peace only a heaven can lend.
If you are a father, wouldn’t you like to wish your child peace in his rest? Isn’t it the greatest happiness this world can offer — the gift of seeing the fruit of your being sleep the perfect sleep, dream the perfect dream, be innocence made flesh? For indeed your child is innocent; the wages of sin are not your child’s to pay. He is the best of everything you have, you father. This is your moment to see yourself rendered newborn, trusting, unquestioningly dependent on powers beyond your understanding. For this part of you that is outside of you, all there can be and all that exists is the warmth of a woman and the warm flow of nourishment from her body that began inside it and continues upon the giving breast.
Silent night. This world is not so cold, though icewind paint your skin in glass splinters. This place is not so sad, though running water there is not and violence stalk you. You have everything you need and no words to describe your riches. You take it all in, tears running down your cheeks. You almost laugh at the inadequacy of your ability to express the inexpressible, finally coming to realize this gift is beyond the reach of mere gratitude, and hearing the memory of a song not yet written, not yet on the lips of any minstrel, you at last realize the only proper worship for a thing of this magnitude of power is silence.
And in that silence, the sopranos begin.