On 24 December 1993, Ali Fayattia and his men of the Armed Islamic Group burst into Our Lady of the Atlas Monastery in Tibhirine, Algeria.

In the film “Of Gods And Men” this deeply unsettling incident is bookended by the monks’ chanting. The short chant that precedes and follows the Christmas Eve invasion starts with the line,

And nothing exists except love.

At the end of their terrifying ordeal, the monks process the figure of the baby Jesus to be placed in the creche, chanting,

This is the night
The immense night of origins
And nothing exists except the child
Except love which now begins.
By separating sand from water
God has prepared the earth like a cradle.
For his coming from above.

This is the night
The immense night of origins
And nothing exists except the child of life divine
By taking flesh of our flesh
God our desert did refresh
And made a land of boundless spring.
This is the night, the long night in which we grope
And nothing exists except this place
Except this place of ruined hope
By stopping in our abode
God, as with the bush, did forebode
The world on which fire would fall.

In the “Prologue” to the Gospel of John, often read on Christmas Eve, the writer refers to the infant whose birth is celebrated on that holy night, saying,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. (John 1:1-3)

Christian tradition holds that the power of creation was embodied fully in the infant born in Bethlehem. So, in a sense, the night of his birth was

The immense night of origins

The challenge of this “immense night” is to embrace the faith that the source of all creation has appeared fully in the physical incarnation of a person. All creation is an expression of the force of love that was manifest in Jesus. Therefore, it is true to affirm that, nothing exists,

Except love which now begins

Advent invites me to open my heart and affirm the power of love that lies at the source of all creation and resides in every dimension of life.

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