Imagine a snowy Christmas Eve, a small church in a little mountain village, deep inside a pine forest. Inside the church a kids choir is singing an unknown but amazing song:
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hoch heilige Paar …
This is, more or less, the kind of experience the villagers of Oberndorf, Austria, must have had some two centuries ago. On that Christmas Eve, a song was born that would have been translated into hundreds of languages, and is now sung by countless millions every December all over the world.
As Christmas historian Bill Egan puts it, the German words for the original six stanzas of the carol we know as “Silent Night” were written by assistant pastor Fr. Joseph Mohr in 1816. On December 24, 1818 he journeyed to the home of musician-schoolteacher Franz Gruber. Joseph showed Franz the poem and asked him to add a melody and guitar accompaniment so that it could be sung at Midnight Mass. The rest is history.
Tomorrow is the fourth Sunday of Advent. To live it properly, I thought the listening of the carol might be helpful. But, to point out the universality of “Silent Night,” how about Enya’s Irish version going along with the images of a Christmas Tree at Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, Rio de Janeiro?