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[Payapang Daigdig]

Written by Pat Nogoy, S.J.

Payapang Daigdig
Felipe de Leon, Sr. 

Ang gabi'y payapa 
Lahat ay tahimik 
Pati mga tala     
Sa bughaw na langit  

Kay hinhin ng hangin
Waring umiibig         
Sa kapayapaan         
Ng buong daigdig      

Payapang panahon   
Ay diwa ng buhay    
Biyaya ng Diyos      
Sa sangkatauhan      

Ang gabi'y payapa    
Lahat ay tahimik     
Pati mga tala           
Sa bughaw na langit   

Pati mga tala           
Sa bughaw na langit 

The gift delivers Being/being
Jean Luc Marion

There is something about the night.

The blanket of darkness hovering the other half of the day sparks ambivalence. Everything is the same in darkness—fear, joy, pain, triumph, doubt, glory, sorrow. Identities recede unto the vast anonymity. There is a pervading anxiety where existence slips into nothingness. One is never certain what to make out of darkness; maybe that is why the night shakes us because we never know. One cannot avoid imagining a something that is greater, higher, mightier, (even sinister) that lurks (hence the power of ghost stories). Paradox arises: Nothing is seen yet everything is. Nothing as the veil of Being, as Heidegger would put it, makes us fall to our knees. There is something about the night. 

There is something about the night. Weary beings bid the world to sleep. Eyes close in restful hope. Yet, existence never stops: Dreams abound; bodies recharge; souls renewed. Existence still happens in the cape of anonymity, in the tender hands of darkness, in the caressing bosom of surrounding shade. Anything can happen. Possibilities thrive, actualities are nourished. In the mysterious shadows of the night, all is. There is something about the night. 

There is something about the night. Beings are caught up neither here nor there. No point of distinction, no point of space. Everything goes home to the arms of obscurity. Pace becomes slow and for some, it elicits melancholia. Yet home is where one truly becomes, where one transcends the essence unto existence, when one is not simply a being but, in unison with the rest, Being. What happens in the in-between breaks the structure of language, only silence prevails. Silence echoes all around. Silence is a mouthpiece of Being.  

Time began in mouth of silence; space arose in the vicinity of nothingness. Creation happened out of nothing (ex nihilo). The familiar mythical genesis of our forefathers narrated a cosmology: how beings came out of the womb of nothing. Even science agrees: in the cradle of stillness, the big bang erupted. It is no wonder therefore that the most celebrated intrusion of God in human history mirrored that of the old pattern. In the distant and humble stable, in the cold of an ordinary night, when everyone is at rest, God arrived.  

His arrival, like any other surprises, is missed. It is so sneaky, low-key, and unobtrusive that it needed angels to wake the sleeping world to receive him. It is so inconspicuous to the point of confounding even in receipt. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, as the herald angels sang, affirms the unimaginable reality of the Infinite becoming finite. And it happened not in the bang of merry-making, fireworks, and loud cheers but rather in a whisper so soft that it brought angels down, scouring the world, announcing. God arrived in a silent night.  

Do not surprises arrive in a similar way? Do not genuine surprises spring out of nowhere, confounding hearts and astounding minds? Surprises are born in anonymity and nourished by silence. We never know surprises. The very presence of surprise elicits true ecstasy (take us out, eks stasis). They are weaved in secrecy; their strength comes from their shadows. Jouissance (joy) happens out of nothing (il y a); out of total absence springs forth presence. It is a joy that cannot be contained by a single heart; the joy of surprise overflows.  

In unruffled sleep reminiscent of Adam’s slumber, the world unknowingly received the first of gifts: the fulfillment of a promise. The cherished promise dreamt of and handed down to generations upon generations has been finally realized. The greatest of all gifts has been given and that is God is.  

The first instance of giving is existence. Under the shroud of the night, the unimaginable emerges:God is. From then on, the peaceful universe will never be the same. The Ultimate Other dons the cape of Being, humbly enters into the abode of existence, an ancient gift that gave birth to everything. The incarnation of a Truth beyond confounds the mind and astounds the hearts of men. The Divine chose to give Himself by becoming, and becoming one of men. The greatest scandal happened. Yet, what will one expect otherwise from a Divine giving? The mean of Divine giving is always excess, beyond, and scandalous.   

The lover aspires for the beloved; one becomes the one that he loves, according to a cliché. The first occurrence of the aspiration of the lover to the beloved is his arrival, that he truly exists and not only a figment of possibility but in breathing reality. The dream of being somebody’s beloved affirms the concrete reality of that lover that, though not yet arriving in my world, exists somewhere out there.  The incarnation is a manifestation of a God who is beyond existence yet like any other confessed lover chose to reveal Himself in a manner that the beloved would hopefully understand. His first act is his arrival. He is. His second act is arriving in our own time-space, in storied human history. He is in the flesh. The two arrivals, both gifts, bind the lover and beloved. Love is realized in togetherness. 

Yet the peaceful universe remains. Even the stars of the blue sky are still and silent. It is as if nothing happened. Mankind remained undisturbed, immersed in dreams, oblivious to the gift of a God who comes in silent slumber. Gifts of this kind are often missed much like the little acts of kindness that go unappreciated, the silent sacrifices that passed by unrecognized, and the whispered prayers that are unheard. Giving always hides; the arriving yields to the arrival. The universe remains peaceful, unaware of the arriving. Giving happens in shadows of concealment. Giving, like love, is never pompous but humble and inconspicuous. Giving’s impact is beyond measure; it is free to intrude and affect without getting noticed. It does not wake the peaceful universe and even the stars in the blue sky to call attention to itself. It arrives, like a thief in the night, and incorporates itself in the slumbering soulscape. Giving unveils a gift, and like the sending, the gift transcends perdurance and objectivity. Gift is always beyond its flesh; greater than the confines of object. It is dynamic and engages the recipient in its fluid presence and infinite depth. When one receives a gift, one cannot exactly demarcate the contours of the gift; there is always something deeper, something infinite other than the object’s mere appearance. Whatever is received transcends and even transforms the recipient.

Caravaggio, The Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence, 1608 
Man, just like any beloved, will never be the same. His dust and soiled earth becomes his lover’s heaven. Everything is arrayed in divinity; every single man and nature is holy twice over. This joie de vivre came from a revolution of giving that happened when man is asleep. God is Eve whereby out of man’s slumber she came to be; out of man’s bone and flesh, she arrived. God is Eve, the only suitable and desirable partner for man since she is of his flesh and bone. God is Eve, the sole Infinite desired by the finite. It happened under the cradle of the night where stars are brightly shining, where the universe is at peace. Arising from the peaceful dawn of Eve’s arrival, man felt complete. Thus, man will never be the same again.  

How man will respond to the giving will comprise the next chapters of history. Yet, the beginning is always a mysterious and engaging clearing; an atypical beginning of a revolutionary course in human history. Suffice to remind men how there is always something about the night, the dwelling of every beginning. Night is always fertile; yet, it hides its fecundity. Concealment protects and nourishes unconcealment; mystery gives birth to reality. Heraclitus admonishes men to pay attention to the clearing, not only in the quickening of the moment, or the flash of light that dazzles. To man, be open! To man, be attentive! For thy knows not the hour of coming.  

There is always something about the night—out of darkness, light shines; out of anonymous chaos, identity arises; out of the shadows of a resting world, a God- in-flesh arrives. Possibilities abound, even that possibility that surpasses any imagination, a possibility dwelling only in the Divine’s mind. The time for that possibility to be actualized came. Thus, in the mystery of time, in the stillness of Eve, God chose to take hush but radical footsteps by becoming flesh—God-with-us. His gift of Himself that he auspiciously laid in the tender crib of the manger surpasses any judgment, death, civilization, and human progress. No other giving commands more peace and joy. No other giving comes close in the imagination of surprise. No other giving restores the fallen and weary man back to his authentic and holy self. No other giving elevates love in a plane higher than what man can even imagine.  

There is always something about the night.

Christmas 2009


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