In Exodus 33, Moses converses with God in plea to have God show him His face. In so doing, Moses was perhaps expressing his deep desire to connect to God who not only was not preoccupied with Moses’ own human incapabilities, but, to the contrary, considered these very same limitations as having instrumental value with respect to the divine plan for the salvation of His chosen people. So while God did not accede to Moses’ request to directly reveal His face to him – since “man cannot see [God] and live” (Ex 33:20) – yet in a sense He did reveal Himself to Moses, and He did this in showing him that His plan was great not in spite of, but because of, Moses’ incapacity.
Indeed, this conversation that took place thousands of years ago still perfectly resonates in its relevance for us today, especially with respect to our relationship with God. Sometimes we feel overcome by our own limitations and seek the magician in God to have Him overturn the situation for us, so as to show us that He is still there. Perhaps in this we can closely identify our behaviour with that of Philip in his appeal to Jesus – an appeal that is again Mosaic in nature – to let the Father be seen (Jn 14:8). To this request Jesus answers in rhetorical form by asking: “Have I been with you all this time and you still do not know me?” (Jn 14:9). Then in Luke’s gospel Jesus tells His disciples, “Happy are the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see and never saw it; to hear what you hear and never heard it” (Lk 10:23-24).
This stands to show us that in our lives God’s silence is still revelatory. Indeed, God’s silence is not silent at all, since the silence ingrained in the scandal of the Incarnation, to borrow from Balthasar, is a silence that speaks to us. By not being in line with the Messianic concept as envisaged by the Jews, the Incarnation of the true Messiah in poverty and exclusion in a cold, wintry and silent night marked His first coming with a healing silence that was bestowed on all humanity, therefore not any longer on a chosen few.
This healing aspect of the silence characterising the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ was given central consideration throughout this Advent period at the Seminary. This was, in part, visually expressed in the structure of the Christmas crib that was prepared by seminarians involved in the ‘Grupp Ħajja Komunitarja’: a crib which, figurewise, was solely composed of baby Jesus in an otherwise empty manger. Positive qualities related to the meekness characterising Christ’s Incarnation were written on pieces of pallets in the immediate background behind the statue of baby Jesus, while negative qualities that sometimes unfortuately do affect the way we relate with each other and with God were similarly written on pallet pieces that were placed in the surrounding background.
In preparing for His Coming, the Seminary community thereby sought to seek the Lord’s face in the face of each one of us participating in the Seminary formation programme. We tried to do this by way of dedicating a greater effort to live a life of interior silence that is also expressed outwardly. Primarily, we took care not to let ourselves be carried away by worldly distractions, particularly by unholy attitudes that prevent us from doing God’s will and also by letting baby Jesus, in all His silent simplicity, endow us with the ever protective garments of His love, His joy, His peace, His patience, His gentleness, His humbleness, His faith and His goodness. In the silent expression of each one of these qualities the Incarnation of Christ is incarnated in our hearts, thereby allowing it to manifest itself within us as a sign and instrument of God’s love to humanity.