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A Still House on a Dark Night
by Fr. Dave Denny
December 9, 2006

This first Tent of Meeting begins after the war between Hezbollah and Israel and Pope Benedict XVI’s September 12 speech at Regensburg, Germany that infuriated Muslims around the world. Then, at the end of November, the pope traveled to Turkey, where, at the end of his pilgrimage, he entered Istanbul’s Blue Mosque and faced Mecca with Imam Mustafa Cagrici for a moment of prayer.

This stunning string of events raises many questions and has prompted all kinds of reactions, from conservative Catholics’ ire at the pope’s seeming betrayal of his own theology to sighs of relief and gratitude from Christians and Muslims who hope for closer bonds of friendship through a dialogue that respects differences without refusing the truth found in each other’s traditions. For more on this story, you may wish to read my reflections on these events, which include a sampling of responses from both Christians and Muslims and links for further reading.

The Advent season for Christians is a time for quiet hope in life despite the long cold nights. We even sense that dark nights may become “happy nights” of encounter with the Beloved, as St. John of the Cross puts it in his masterpiece poem, “The Dark Night”:

On a dark night,
Inflamed by love-longing—
O exquisite risk!—
Undetected I slipped away.
My house, at last, grown still.

We celebrate St. John’s feast day on December 14, and I love returning to his poetry at this time of the year. In spite of the tensions between the sons and daughters of Abraham, we take time to thank God for the peacemakers quietly planting seeds of life beneath blizzards of propaganda and gales of violence. We hope and pray that believers will take time to slip away from grief and vengeful anger, that the Abrahamic houses of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam will find the deep stillness that gives birth to joy in these dark nights. That stillness reaches down to the eternal Now, a hidden Paradise where, for a brief and strengthening time at least, we may, as St. John put it, abandon our cares, “Among the lilies, forgotten.”

 

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