Part I: Lamentations
Silent night, Holy night
A replica Austrian chapel depicts the place of the initial 1818 performance of Stille Nacht (Silent Night). Two pious dudes had an idea for a Christmas Eve show; one had words, the other beats. The wordsmith was Josef Mohr, the man with the beats, Franz Xaver Gruber, played church organ. Stille Nacht was put together like most great things (out of necessity); Mohr had a midnight Christmas Eve performance and needed something new. Including guitar and choir accompaniment, the two crafted the performance that evening – and the show went on at midnight. In 2011, UNESCO declared Stille Nacht part of our intangible cultural heritage.
All is calm, all is bright,
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
No Silent Night: The Christmas Battle for Bastogne, written by Leo Barron and Don Cygan (2012), is the story of a fulcrum battle in the German siege of Bastogne, Belgium, 20-27 December 1944. This German siege within the American Ardennes Counteroffensive hinged on a Christmas Day battle between US infantry, with the 101st Airborne on point, against German tanks, specifically, the feared Panzer and its three inches of steel plating. Tomorrow we’ll view the Christmas Day battle from one officer’s perseverance and patience, Lt. Colonel John T. Cooper. The colonel has a soldier’s day like Lt. James Monroe did in 1776 at the New Jersey Battle of Trenton. In 1776 it was German Hessians hired as mercenaries for the King of England to fight the Yankee Doodle Dandy rebels; in 1944 it was the last of Germany’s Jerries against more of those US rebel Yanks.
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Lamentations are passionate expressions of grief or sorrow; they are illuminated wails. Barron and Cygan show their spirit, and the spirit of their book, by prefacing No Silent Night with a German officer’s Christmas night lamentation; the sorrow was chalked in a school after tomorrow’s 1944 Christmas Day battle. Seventy years on and the German’s sorrow rings eternal in its human, all too humanness: besieged by ruins, blood and death, the human nonetheless cries for – laments for – a vision of universal fraternity:
“Let the world never see such a Christmas night again!
To die, far from one’s children, one’s wife and mother, under the fire of guns, there is no greater cruelty.
To take away a son from his mother, a husband from his wife, a father from his children, is it worthy of a human being?
Life can only be for love and respect.
At the sight of ruins, of blood and death, universal fraternity will rise.”
This evening, pause in Peace for that holy infant, so tender and mild … in all of us.
Posted by Bryan W. Brickner
Part II Tomorrow: 70 years from Christmas Day 1944 ~ Perseverance, Patience and Victory in Bastogne.