A noite silenciosa da fecundidade*

A Páscoa é dramática, e a narrativa que se estende do Domingo de Ramos à Ascensão é mais carregada de reviravoltas, altos e baixos do que qualquer coisa que Ésquilo ou mesmo Shakespeare poderia ter imaginado. E nela há ruídos, desde a saudação da entrada de Cristo em Jerusalém às zombarias de sua crucificação, até o tremor da terra na Ressurreição. Em Pentecostes, também, ouvimos que “um som veio do céu”, e logo múltiplas línguas enchiam o ar com proclamações da mensagem que mudaria o mundo para sempre. Quando chegamos ao Natal, contudo, há silêncio.

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Muito antes do inquietante drama e a glória da Páscoa, e das responsabilidades vocais de Pentecostes, topamos com uma atmosfera silenciosa ao redor da manjedoura em Belém. E, não obstante, estamos diante de algo igualmente comovente. Quando nasce uma criança, somos instados a ficar quietos; a criança não pode falar, e nos encontramos como que mudos. Assim é com o Natal. Pois o mistério da noite em que Cristo nasceu é uma noite do Pai, tanto quanto a Páscoa foi uma manhã do Filho, e Pentecostes, um dia do Espírito.

O Pai é Deus em seus mais recônditos e inefáveis recessos. Ele é o mistério diante do qual, no final das contas, somos reduzidos ao silêncio. Mas, também em face de uma criança recém-nascida, vemos um mistério que nos causa admiração e deslumbramento. No Natal, Deus se dispôs a mostrar Seu próprio poder e glória na face do Cristo-Menino. E qual é o mistério nessa face? Que segredo do Pai é esse? Eu proponho que seja a fecundidade. Sempre que nos aproximamos da matriz de uma nova vida humana, estamos em presença de uma força incomparavelmente além da nossa. Faltam-nos as palavras que, no desespero por encontra-las, até se tornam vulgares (nossas piores obscenidades fazem referência à procreação). É por isso que sempre achamos que o sexo não deve ser discutido abertamente; não porque seja mau, mas porque é muito bom e próximo demais ao próprio mistério trinitário de Deus para ser confiado às nossas palavras casuais. O eterno nascimento do Filho no Espírito é o mistério mesmo da Trindade. O nascimento temporal do Filho em Belém marca o começo do mistério da Redenção. Este mistério se desdobra na história tão-somente quando permitimos, também, que ele nasça em nós. O Natal é sobre nascimento, brotos de vida e bebês. Lembra-nos que Deus está vivo e que o amor à vida é o princípio do amor a Deus. E apenas o silêncio tem espaço suficiente para acomodar a imensidão desse milagre.

*Nota do tradutor: entende-se que o título original “The Silent Night of Fecundity”, encerra um trocadilho sutil envolvendo o Natal e o silêncio – ideias cuja relação é trabalhada no texto –, que é captado pelo título da música natalina alemã: “Stille Nacht” – em inglês: “Silent Night”. Ocorre que a tradução consagrada dessa música para o Português é “Noite Feliz”.

The Silent Night of Fecundity

Easter is dramatic, and the narrative from Palm Sunday to the Ascension is laden with more twists and turns and ups and downs than anything Aeschylus or even Shakespeare could think up. And there is noise—from the cheers of Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem to the jeers of his crucifixion; even the earth quaked at the Resurrection.  On Pentecost, too, “a sound came from heaven”, and soon multiple tongues were filling the air with proclamations of the message that would change the world for ever.  When we come to Christmas, however, there is silence.  stillenacht01Long before the unsettling drama and glory of Easter and the vocal responsibilities of Pentecost, we find a hushed atmosphere around the manger of Bethlehem. And yet something equally moving is before us.  When a child is born, we are urged to be still; the child cannot talk, and adults find themselves to be tongue-tied, or reduced to imitating high-pitch baby blather. And so it is with Christmas. For the mystery of the night Christ was born is a night of the Father, as much as Easter was a morning of the Son and Pentecost a day of the Spirit.

The Father is God in his most recondite and ineffable recesses. He is the mystery before whom we ultimately fall silent. But also in the face of every newborn child we see a mystery that makes us gaze and wonder. At Christmas, God ordained to show his very own power and glory in the face of the Christ-Child. And what is the mystery in this face? What is this secret of the Father? It is, I submit, fecundity. Whenever we wander close to the matrix of a new human life, we are in the presence of a power far beyond us. Our words falter, and in desperation, even turn vulgar (don’t our worst profanities all have to do with procreation?). This is why we have always instinctively felt that sex ought not to be discussed in the open, not because it is bad, but because it is too good and too near to God’s own trinitarian mystery to be entrusted to our careless words. The eternal Birth of the Son in the Spirit is the very mystery of the Trinity. The Son’s temporal birth in Bethlehem marks the beginning of the mystery of  Redemption, and that mystery is extended through history only when we allow him to be born also in us. Christmas is all about birth, buds of life and babies. It reminds us that God is alive and that love of life is the beginning of love of God. And only silence has space enough to accommodate the immensity of the miracle.

Et Verbum infans factum est (and the Word was made an infant)

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When you look into the eyes of an infant, you see someone who sees something you are no longer able to see. The orbs are clear, free of self-reflection, looking outward at the world as it really is, unclouded by disguise and interpretation (even when they are looking at you – a slightly unsettling thought). Recent studies in child psychology have confirmed what the world’s traditions have always taught, namely, that children know things that get forgotten in the throes of misguided education and the tumult of adolescence. By the time we are adults, we dismiss those sweet little gazes as childish naiveté that will soon have to measure up to the ‘real’ world. But we are wrong. True, Christ does not admonish us to remain as little children, but he does insist we become as little children; and it is that childlike innocence that is held up as a spiritual goal;  still – and this we too often forget – this includes knowing certain things only those in such a state are able to know. (Take another look at the baby’s face before continuing to read.)

The Incarnation is not the work of one more in a series of avatars. Those beings do, in Hinduism, what angels and prophets do in the Bible – they ‘descend’ (the root meaning of avatar), teach or reveal for a while, and then return to where they came from, like the angels; or they speak forth the deep things of God, like the prophets. If an angel takes on the form of a human being, it is only a temporary vehicle, cast off once the mission is accomplished. They are not God, and do not become man. Prophets are men already, and never become God – the impossibility of this last being perhaps their most frequent prophetic injunction.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” is certainly the most momentous claim ever made in the Greek language about the fabled Logos, and for those who believe it – and nothing is more germane to bare Christian faith – it is a fact so objective, so metaphysical and so almost brutal, it could only become – as it indeed became – a scandal (a tripping stone) on which all the world would lose its footing. It bespeaks a God who is not, as most atheists and too many believers hold, just the biggest being in the universe, but rather Transcendent Being Itself. And it bespeaks a human nature that can never be exhaustively accounted for by whatever mechanism of naturalist evolution science finally settles on, however conclusive its contribution proves to be. You cannot explain the beauty of music by mathematics alone, nor can you account for the look on that baby’s face (take another look) by survival of the fittest alone. Man is a mystery, and his soul is open – both intellectually and volitionally – to the infinite. And it was into that parabolic opening that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity took its own nature, producing the event in time that marked the year zero, and made the ‘God Who Is’ into the Man of Sorrows. But that is already looking to Lent. God became a man in a full human nature. And that nature does not exist, as does God’s, in the ever-present moment, but is spread over time and unfolded in space. And like all things in time and space, it begins small, as a child.

As the colossal events of Holy Week and Easter lost some of the edge of their first shock, the early Christians began to put that Paschal Mystery into context, and ponder the early years of the man who died and rose from the dead. Mary was queried more than anyone, and other witnesses of the birth, infancy and youth of Jesus offered their recollections as well. Much of this found its way into the Gospels. Slowly the story of Christ’s Nativity came into full focus, and it became clear that the fullness of the Godhead already resided in the tiny child lying in the manger. Surrounded by shepherds, a murderous monarch and mysterious magi from the East, the story of Christmas became the beloved domestic tale that inspired even its secular counterparts in the yuletide midwinter traditions of the north. But nothing prepared the world’s religious imagination for this last divine wonder, that out of the sweet face of a tiny infant, the God who created the cosmos and twirled the world into a new context by his death and resurrection, would gaze, and love, and lose nothing either of his infinite power as God or of his charming delicacy as a Child.

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