“The darkness was upon the face of the deep… and God said: ‘Let there be light’. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.” (Gn 1:3-5). And there was evening, and it was… the first night. Night is the beginning of the day. It is the faithful companion of light. No need to be afraid of night! Night is useful for plants and animals. Night is a good friend of man, too. It is the time of rest when at last we cease to feel in charge of everything. We acknowledge we do not control all things around us; we let others in other places work and act; mainly, we let God govern the world. God governs it quietly, in a very efficacious and at the same time very restful manner. There is nothing more divine than rest, the Holy Rest of God, the Sabbath in which God’s unceasing action is wrapped into an infinite rest.
We have all seen a baby sleeping, deeply plunged in his sleep, totally vulnerable, but also necessarily confident that others will care for him. It is so human, this weakness, but at the same time, so divine, so strong, so full of God’s mystery. So are – or should be – our nights: times of surrender, of confidence, of hope. “In your hands, o Lord, I commit my soul”, sings the Church every evening at Compline, the last prayer of the day, just before the night. These are also, according to Luke, the last words of Jesus on the cross, his last prayer to his Father before entering the night of death.
There is a night which is darkness and sin, and Jesus saw it clearly in his adversaries. There is a night which is anxiety and fear, and Jesus experienced it at Gethsemane. And there is also in Jesus’ life the night of the child, the baby’s night. Let us only remember Jesus sleeping in the boat, while the disciples fought against the storm, or Jesus spending the whole night in the spiritual rest of filial prayer on the mountain. When Jesus remained for two nights in the tomb, he abode in the great sacrament of the night, the sacrament of God reshaping and recreating the world from the depths of His restful and powerful love.
Tonight, Jesus meets us precisely in the night, because we are in the night, maybe asleep in indifference, maybe frightened by fears, maybe on the way to spiritual death by our pride and our sins. “The true light that enlightens every man” comes into the world (Jn 1:9). “The light shines in the darkness” (Jn 1:5). Jesus visits our nights, but not with a sudden and violent irruption of daylight. Rather his blessed night kindly visits our night. Blessed is the night of trust of the Son, blessed the night of love of the Spouse, blessed the night of death of the One who is Life and makes it for us the night of the Resurrection!
“And the life was the light of men” (Jn 1:4). There is a light in the night and a life even in death. We see both of them through faith. Faith is a process of awakening, of going from darkness to light, from death to life, and from night to day. He is the Day, he who also is the life and the light. But the Day was mercifully made night, so that, from within the night of this world we might begin slowly to see the true light, and from darkness to awake to eternal life. Life was made death that through death the light of resurrection and life might shine on us.
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you: God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). The holy night we are celebrating is a memorial to God who is light and who has enlightened our souls with faith in the resurrection of his Son. Because it is a mystery of day and light, faith begins with night. Night is the servant and the mother of the day. It prepares us to the day and begets in us the full Day which is Christ.
As we move from the liturgy of the Word to the liturgy of Baptism and Eucharist, let us entrust ourselves to the mysteries of this Holiest of Holy nights, as children of light peacefully sleeping in the hands of the Father and eagerly watching for the Day of Days, Jesus, our Risen Lord, the only Love of our hearts. Amen. Alleluia!