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Reflecting on a sacred night


HONG KONG (SE): As the strains of the well-loved Christmas carol proclaim, Silent Night, Sacred Night, Christians are invited to reflect on what is sacred in our world and in our lives.

The sacred is proclaimed in many different ways, but what is common about each one is that it holds and element that is somehow transcendent, seemingly beyond the reach or our physical ability to enact or achieve and intangible.

In Hong Kong people talk about the core values of society. These include human freedom, the right to free speech and ultimately, the right to be the person that they have been created to be.

In war-torn Syria, Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo calls it the peace that has remained elusive in his country, but nevertheless, points out that the sacred is touched every time people pray and suffer with the poor. Then there is the peace that modern society has proved it is incapable of delivering.

In his New Year’s Message for Peace, Pope Benedict XVI points to the sacred in the emergence of so many peace-makers in the midst of violence and war mongering.

Bishop Audo defines the sacred place in Syria as the chasm between government troops and the rebels. He says that in working for peace and reconciliation that space is sacred, because it transcends the concrete realities of hatred and desperation of each day.

He calls it a place that demands the respect of others’ differences and a place where a sense of citizenship can evolve, a sense of belonging to something that is good and life-giving, but not yet definable.

Writing for UCA News under the pen name, Shi Feng, a Chinese Catholic reflects on the loss of liberty currently being endured by the new auxiliary of Shanghai diocese, Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin.

He recalls that prior to being taken to confinement on his ordination day, July 7, the newly-ordained bishop pointed to the heavens and said, “People look at appearances, but God looks into our hearts. The truth is there. We make a plan, but God accomplishes it.”

Shi points out that in the face of political power, Catholics in China have lost a battle. “We were killed like muted lambs,” he reflects. “But in fact, we have actually won.”

He continues, “Our faith is purified. Our spirit is uplifted. And the Communist Party has lost the nobility that a big nation should possess, along with juridical impartiality and the hearts of its people.”

Shi returns to the same sense of citizenship that Bishop Audo speaks of, which nourishes the growth of the human person into what God created them to be.

“As an inhabitant of China,” he pens, noting that he refrains from calling himself a citizen, because as a Catholic he is denied the proper treatment that all citizens should enjoy, “I need these rights.”

In his Urbi et Orbi (To the City of Rome and the World) address, Pope Benedict asks why so many people shy away from the sacred, asking if it is because it can be frightening to be so close to God.

Touching the sacred can be fearful, as it involves leaving much in trust to God, which can seem like doing the impossible.

However, the pope points out that the feast of Christmas, which the carol describes as the sacred night, is sacred because it reminds us that God first did the impossible, taking on human flesh, becoming like each and every one of us.

He calls this the reality that chases away our gloom and conquers our fear, so well may we sing, Silent Night, Sacred Night, not just in humility, but with confidence.


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