Hiddenness and Silence


“There is one thing that stands out on this birthday of the Light, on this entrance procession of goodness into the world, and it fills us again and again with the nagging doubt whether those great things we talk about have really happened there in the stable of Bethlehem. Look at the sun, it is grand, glorious, majestic; nobody could possibly overlook its yearly triumphal return. Should not its Creator at his arrival be even more majestic, more impressive? Should not this very sunrise of history flood the face of the earth with inexpressible glory?

“Yet instead — how miserable is everything we hear about in the Gospel! Or could it be that this very misery, this insignificance within the framework of this world, is the hallmark of the Creator, by which he makes known his presence? This, at first, appears to be an unbelievable thought. And yet — if we explore the mystery of God’s providence, we will see every more clearly that God seems to give of himself a twofold sign. There is, first of all, the sign of his creation. But alongside this sign there appears more forcefully the other, the sign of what is insignificant in the world. The most genuine and most important values are found in this world precisely under the sign of humility, of hiddenness, of silence. Whatever is decisively great in this world, whatever determines its fate and its history, is that which appears small to our eyes. God, after having chosen the small and ignored people of Israel for his very own people, has made, in Bethlehem, the sign of insignificance into the decisive sign of his presence in the world.

“This is the challenge of the holy night — faith; faith to receive him under this sign and to trust him without arguing or grumbling. To receive him: this means for us to submit to this sign, to truth and to love, which are the highest and most God-like values, and at the same time the most neglected and most silent.”

— Josef Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), in Co-Workers of the Truth


There are 14 comments.

  1. JoelB Member

    “The sign of what is insignificant in the world” I appreciate this post very deeply. Thank you, Peter.

    • #1
    • December 26, 2014, at 5:25 AM PDT
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  2. Neil Hansen (Klaatu) Inactive

    Thank you Peter. I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas and may be blessed in the new year.

    • #2
    • December 26, 2014, at 5:42 AM PDT
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  3. Aaron Miller Member

    Thanks, Peter.

    I at least, as a cradle Christian, had no expectations of salvation before its form was revealed to me. But imagine those Jews who had to accept that their great Messiah, the successor to King David, came as a baby and the son of a carpenter. Imagine expecting an earthly lord and receiving a spiritual one who feasts with outcasts and fishermen.

    Merry Christmas.

    • #3
    • December 26, 2014, at 6:09 AM PDT
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  4. KC Mulville Inactive

    Or, as a great Jesuit once said to me …”Be careful. God is sneaky.”

    • #4
    • December 26, 2014, at 9:10 AM PDT
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  5. Fredösphere Member

    So God chose not to announce the birth of his son via visions of angels to the Emperor in Rome, or even King Herod? I guess we can look at the birth in Bethlehem as, among other things, the greatest snub in history.

    • #5
    • December 26, 2014, at 10:20 AM PDT
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  6. Great Ghost of Gödel Inactive

    KC Mulville:Or, as a great Jesuit once said to me …”Be careful. God is sneaky.”


    • #6
    • December 26, 2014, at 10:27 AM PDT
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  7. thebeekeeperkissedme Inactive

    Thank you for this post Peter. Amongst the grandiose spirit associated with Christmas, and my association with it, this is a timely counterpoint.

    I love the way our Popes write. Simple words, simple truths, deep meaning. I admit to having read it many times before its meaning landed.

    • #7
    • December 26, 2014, at 10:31 AM PDT
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  8. Probable Cause Inactive

    Or, as a first century preacher once put it:

    For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.

    (1 Cor 1:21-28 NAS)

    • #8
    • December 26, 2014, at 10:42 AM PDT
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  9. Western Chauvinist Member

    I’ve been contemplating Fr. Barron’s description of the circumstances of Christ’s coming as further evidence of the Creator God’s non-violence. Unlike the pagan gods, He creates ex nihilo, rather than manipulate that which already exists.

    So, too, rather than coming at the front of conquering hordes, He conquers hearts by His holy innocence. He elicits the best of our impulses to serve and protect by coming as a helpless babe. And He provides the examples of how best to love Him in the Holy Family — through Mary and Joseph.

    Wonderful! Counsellor! Prince of Peace!

    • #9
    • December 26, 2014, at 12:28 PM PDT
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  10. Scott Wilmot Member

    Peter Robinson: “This is the challenge of the holy night — faith; faith to receive him under this sign and to trust him without arguing or grumbling. To receive him: this means for us to submit to this sign, to truth and to love, which are the highest and most God-like values, and at the same time the most neglected and most silent.”

    “To receive him”: what a great gift that has been given to us.

    Lord: I pray that you give me the humility and strength to always submit to your truth and love.

    Thanks for sharing these words Peter – no one opens up the mysteries of the faith better than Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

    • #10
    • December 27, 2014, at 3:55 AM PDT
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  11. Profile Photo Member

    Thank you, Peter! I’m glad we have twelve days to celebrate – and a lifetime to contemplate – God’s gift of Himself to us…Merry ongoing Christmas!

    • #11
    • December 27, 2014, at 6:56 PM PDT
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  12. Ozzymandias Inactive

    Thank you, Mr. Robinson! Even a crusty Protestant like myself can appreciate Ratzinger’s insight in this case.

    The Nativity narrative in particular and the Gospel accounts in general are pregnant with authenticity and historicity. If one was inventing a religion in the Greco-Roman world of the 1st Century, one would not have ones God become incarnate due to the Neo-Platonic dualism which looked down on the physical, material world. You certainly wouldn’t have the Messiah born in a provincial backwater to a peasant girl in a secondhand cave but rather atop the Palatine to an old Roman family with a patrician pedigree. And you most definitely wouldn’t cast yourself as someone who misunderstood and even denied your Lord as the the Apostles always did throughout the Gospels and Acts. If the choice is between God’s foolishness and Man’s wisdom, I pick the former every time.

    Grace and peace to all Ricochet members and your loved ones this Christmas season and throughout 2015!

    • #12
    • December 28, 2014, at 8:02 PM PDT
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  13. Karon Adams Inactive

    This is the beauty and the power of God. The more obvious His work, the less faith it requires to understand. we cannot deny the evidence of our own eyes and senses, doubt makes belief FAR more profound. in everything. Question makes us consider and think about our faith and why it means something. We see the sun rise in glory every day. it takes no faith to believe. yet the story of a small family in the darkest season of the year, in an obscure place bringing a seemingly ordinary child into the world, that takes faith. and that faith, not any fact, is what makes Christ singular in our hearts and lives.

    • #13
    • December 29, 2014, at 4:07 AM PDT
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  14. The Forgotten Man Inactive

    Thank you Peter,

    A couple of years ago people started calling the Thanksgiving Christmas season thanksmas. My youngest daughter hates any attempt to take Christ out of Christmas and renamed the season Christgiving. I thought the name was highly appropriate. The apostle Paul said, ” Php 2:5-7 (5) Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,(6) who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,(7) but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

    Jesus greatest gift as a man was the cross. I believe His greatest Gift as God was the manager. Merry Christmas.

    • #14
    • December 29, 2014, at 1:42 PM PDT
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