Keep silence this Advent :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Keep silence this Advent

Marianna Bartholomew

Photo by Bartholomews, taken at Basilica of Saint Mary, St. Paul, MN

"Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" is a 4th Century chant of Eucharistic devotion popularized by composer Ralph Vaghan Williams, who set the stanzas to the French tune Picardy in 1906. The verses describe God descending to Earth with “blessing in his hand,” as he gives “His own self for heavenly food.”

“Let all the Earth keep silence before him,” urges the book of Habakkuk 2:20, the Scripture from which the chant is based.

Do we seek silence? That still disposition of preparing to receive our “heavenly food,” should resonate through our days.

Under the frenetic onslaught of modern life, souls crave silence…silence punctuated by winds rustling, fire crackling, pages turning or gentle conversation. Silence stirred by heartbeats and contemplation. A silence sipped like fine wine, because it is so rare in our world. Just as important as developing a love of fine music, is learning to appreciate silence. Cultivating a listening silence in our hearts that extends beyond church and Eucharistic adoration, will help us hear God’s whispers each moment.

Even amidst children crying, phones ringing, the mad race of traffic and the day’s pressing demands, we can capture a breath of silence, casting our heart and mind heavenward. Pockets of silence, sought amidst the din, sanctify our day.

Enter into the mysteries of Advent peace and Christmas joy. Move beyond busyness. To make Advent more than a commercial or culinary adventure, seek silence:

Silent Joy

In silence, we welcome You, newborn babe
We tremble with joy in Your presence
We adore You

We marvel that God’s greatness is hidden
In such a fragile child
A newborn, shivering in the manger

We listen and hear Your feeble cry
Our hearts meet Yours

We draw softly closer
In tender reverence, we bow our heads
Knowing the sacrifice Your life will bring

Even now, a shadow falls upon You
Only a crossbeam from the stable roof

But now, may we think only of joy?
May we welcome You in trembling joy?

In silence, first
Our souls speak Your language

We prepare carefully to meet You
Newborn King

Any attraction we have for the wayward path
We lay aside now

May we join in Your journey toward heaven?
Soon, we will raise our voices in prayer and sacred song

In the Eucharist
In Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity
You are born anew each day

But now, we reflect, we rejoice
In silence, we are deeply moved

Angels hover
Creation trembles with Your coming

Little Lord Jesus, we love You
We embrace You
In silence

Please be born into our hearts
And be beloved to us

By Marianna Bartholomew
Christmas Day, 2005

© 2011 Marianna Bartholomew

Topics: Advent & Christmas

Marianna Bartholomew is winner of six national Catholic Press Association Journalism Awards and Chicago’s 1993 Cardinal’s Communications Award for Professional Excellence. Her articles have appeared in EXTENSION Magazine, Our Sunday Visitor, Catholic Digest and in Chicago’s Catholic New World and other diocesan newspapers across the nation. Former Managing Editor of Catholic home mission EXTENSION Magazine, Bartholomew has traveled to and reported on conditions in the poorest, most isolated pockets of our nation, from Louisiana’s Cajun communities and Appalachia’s hollows to Montana’s remote Indian missions. Blessed to be a wife and homeschooling mother of three, she now teaches in a homeschool cooperative, freelance writes from her Chicago area home, and is completing her first novel for young adults. She blogs at

View all articles by Marianna Bartholomew

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