After their frightening encounter with Ali Fayattia and his men, the monks of Tibhirine return to their true work. They share the familiar rhythms of the sacred liturgy of Christmas Eve. They embody in their ritual, the reality of this holy night of peace that has been interrupted by the threat of violence.

As the monks process the figure of the infant Jesus to his place in the creche, they chant

By separating sand from water
God has prepared the earth like a cradle
For his coming from above.

In Genesis the writer describes the process of God’s creation saying,

And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:9,10)

Coming into form involves separation. Separation involves pain. This world of form is always to some degree

This place of ruined hope… on which fire would fall.

As long as we continue in our journey in form, we always travel through

The long night in which we grope.

But, as Brother Christian said, to Ali Fayattia at the end of their conversation on Christmas Eve,

Tonight is different from other nights.

The monks are committed to living the deeper reality of Christmas.

They seek to embody in their relationship with creation and within the human community, the conviction that, while the appearance of separation may be necessary to the possibility of love, separation is not ultimately the deepest truth. The Incarnation reveals the deeper truth that all life is filled with the mystery of Presence. In this Presence all life is connected by the bond of love revealed in the person of Jesus.

To love is to bridge the apparent divide between tangible form and the intangible force embodied in “the child of life divine”. In this force we see that all life is united in the reality that

nothing exists except love.

We are all connected. The pain of life is generated by the illusion of separation. Christmas invites us to see beneath separation to the intimate connection that unites all forms of life.

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