I recall a number of years ago being at a musical event in Clarecastle, a fund-raiser in aid of the Children’s Grief centre in Limerick. The charity does outstanding work in helping young people who have experienced a bereavement to be able to cope with their loss.
One of the guest artists on the night was the internationally renowned Clare singer Jerry Lynch, who sadly passed away in June of 2020. On that night he sang Silent nightChristmas 1915. Silent night, Christmas 1915 is a most enthralling tale of what happened on Christmas night 108 years ago during one of the most horrific wars of all time, World War I.
Amid the horror of the trenches full of vermin, dead bodies, injured soldiers, poisonous gas with the terror of gunshot and killing on all sides a German soldier emerged from his trench and went to the middle of No Man’s Land. No man’s Land was one of the most dangerous places to be, right in the middle of both enemy sides. To the surprise and amazement of the combatants, the young soldier sang Silent Night in his native tongue. For a short space of time, following on from that Christmas night there was an oasis of truce and peace and calm from one of the most horrific moments of the history of humanity.
The refrain of the verse that Jerry Lynch sang with such heart and feeling on that night was:
Silent night, no canon’s roar,
A King is born of Peace forever more.
All’s calm, all’s bright.
All brothers hand in hand.
The sound of peace reigns.
Sleep in heavenly Peace.
Of course, normal service was resumed the following day and there is further great poignancy in the ballad when we hear the composer of the song later killed the very same young tenor who came out of the trench and sang Silent Night during that most special, memorable, and holy events.
The reason that God sent Jesus to be born for us over 2000 years ago on this earth on that first Christmas night was to call a truce on the No Man’s Land that exists between heaven and earth.
At times in the past and present the distance between heaven and earth seem so distant but with the coming of Jesus as a human being we have the example of a Way and a Truth and a Life. The pathway to God and to heaven is no longer, unknown, or dangerous or treacherous territory.
It may still be very challenging and at times difficult to get there. The reality of evil, sadness, warfare, strife, hunger, homelessness, confusion, darkness, struggles of life still exist and we are all too familiar with that in Russia, Ukraine, Gaza, the Holy Land and other troubled spots. We have seen recent examples of hardness of heart, both close to home and further afield in the welcome and otherwise shown towards the many visitors in our midst who are seeking refuge and a safe place to live.
Someone remarked in conversation in recent weeks that they detect an increased sense of anger and polarisation in conversation, discourse, and the reality of on-going life. They wondered if that was a result of the increased engagement with social media outlets, various electronic communication all of which have a strong influence to form our opinions, shoot from the hip in an anonymous way and thereby encourage polarisation and trenchant views.
All that being said, because of the great event of the coming of Jesus our lives and this world is no longer No Man’s Land and we, now through the birth of Jesus have direction and guidance to move in the heavenly direction.
Peace, cooperation, harmony, unity, understanding, love reigned during that short truce during World War I. Many, if not all of these noble ideals just mentioned were at the heart of what inspired the young people of Ballyea and Clarecastle when they organised that Charity event on that Advent day in 2017.
May these Christ-like qualities reign in your heart and home and community on this special and most holy of nights, Christmas not of 1915, but in the truce of the peace and calm and serenity of Christmas night 2023. A holy and happy Christmas to all the Clare Champion readers for the remainder of this year and always.
✠ Fintan Monahan, Bishop of Killaloe
Clare Champion Article 21st of December 2023