Christmas Countdown 2009: No. 2. Stille Nacht (Silent Night) by various artists and choirs

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

In any language, Silent Night is probably the most recognized Christmas song ever performed. And in nearly every case, it is recognized for its melodic solemnity in the holiness of the moment of Christ’s birth.

Stille Nacht was first performed 191 years ago tonight in the Church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, Austria. Two years earlier, in 1816, the lyrics were written by the Austrian priest Josef Mohr, and the melody was composed the day of the first performance by the Austrian Headmaster Franz Xaver Gruber, reportedly for the guitar. Since then, Silent Night has been translated into 44 different languages and recorded by over 300 performers or artists. To this day, it stands as one of the most spiritual and holy of Christmas carols to be played on Christmas eve and early Christmas morning.

Oíche Chiúin, oíche Mhic Dé,
Cách na suan go héiri an lae.
Dís is dílse ag faire le spéis.
Glór binn aingeal le clos insan aer.
Críost ag teacht ar an saol.
Críost ag teacht ar an saol.

For me, this song will forever take me back to the second Christmas after my father died, and I spent Christmas Eve with my mother to help her through the loneliness of those most solemn moments. We attended a Christmas Eve church service, went to a traditional gathering of friends, and then went home. Mom had this little tape player, and she played a Christmas Classics tape with various carols and gospels, including Silent Night. We didn’t speak much as the music played, but hours later, in the silence of the night, I heard her crying.

When we awoke Christmas morning, she was different. There was an energy to her that I had not seen since Dad’s passing, yet she didn’t share anything with me about why she was feeling this way. We exchanged our Christmas gifts, had breakfast with my Brother and his family, and I went back to my cabin in southern Maryland.

It wasn’t until Christmas Eve, the following year, that Mom shared with me what had happened that night. She told me that she had been visited by an Angel, and that Dad was there as well. Dad told her that he would always be with her, and she should live her life fully. They would be reunited again soon.

Certainly, a lot had changed for Mom in the year between those two Christmas eves. She regained her confidence, and she met a gentleman that would end up staying with her for the next fifteen years — right up to the night she died.

I know Mom was afraid at first to tell me that she had seen my father with an angel that night, but I never doubted her for a moment. To this day, I believe that Dad did visit her, and he and the angel set her free to live her life with God’s grace and blessings. I have no doubt that, when she lay dying in May of 2007, she was visited again, and when she passed away, was carried to heaven in their hands.

It doesn’t matter which version I hear. Whether it is sung in German by the St. Thomas Boys’ Choir, in Irish by Enya, or in English by Stevie Nicks and Robbie Nevil, Silent Night will always be much more than a beautiful Christmas carol. It will forever be laced with the memories of my mother’s reunion with Dad on the holiest of nights, when Christ was born.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

One thought on “Christmas Countdown 2009: No. 2. Stille Nacht (Silent Night) by various artists and choirs

  1. Such a beautiful memory Rus– always remember that Angels are Among us….. they are real and can do amzing things to our spirits…. they are not to be feared… and what could be a more perfect time for your Dad and angel to come back to guide your mom through her grieving than at Christmas and with Silent Night? When I hear this story, I always have to think back to WWI when the soldiers put down their arms and praised God in the Highest with the birth of Jesus Christ. They knew what this night meant and were willing to trust in one another for peace… if even just for the night… First the Germans singing this song, then it was recipicated by the British with The First Noel…. they vollied back and forth, sharing their love of Christ, love of man and not enemy until there commanders back at headquarters made them stop. WHo knows, if the soldiers were allowed to continue with the spirit that filled them, WWI could have come to an end that night…. This is the strength that this and so many other Christmas songs have on our lives and why they continue to be with us each and every holiday season. Peace be with you and your family Rus.

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