Silent Night – Part 1

Joseph Mohr, a Catholic priest, wrote the six-stanza poem Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! in 1816 when he was assigned to a church in Austria. Two years later, after a transfer to St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria, the priest decided he wanted his poem set to music. On December 24, 1818, he asked his friend Franz Gruber to create a melody and guitar accompaniment. The two men sang the carol at Christmas Mass in St. Nicholas Church with Mohr playing his guitar and the choir repeating the last two lines of each verse.

The man who translated Stille Nacht into Silent Night was John Freeman Young. While assigned to New York’s Trinity Church, he translated European hymns into English as a hobby. Later in life he became the second Episcopal Bishop of Florida. Bishop Young is buried in Jacksonville, Florida, forgotten by the city he loved and ignored by the church he served, yet his words are sung by millions of people in English-speaking nations.

Silent night holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night holy night
Shepherds quake at the sight,
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing alleluia;
Christ the Savior, is born
Christ the Savior, is born.

Silent night holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.


The first verse will elicit curious responses from children if you ask them what “round yon virgin means”! Of course, the text means that all is calm and bright around the virgin Mary and the Holy Child, Jesus. I find no objection to singing this hymn. But still, when Mohr wrote of the virgin mother in the first stanza, he had a conception of Mary which is foreign to Scripture. What do Catholics believe regarding Mary (keeping in mind that their doctrine is in a constant state of flux)?


  1. Catholics believe that Mary was a perpetual virgin, a virgin all her life. Contrary to Scripture, they believe that Mary never did have children after she gave birth to Jesus. To them, she is ever a virgin. Yet the Scriptures do not teach this. Mary certainly gave birth to other children.

And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.” (Mark 6:2–3)


  1. Catholics believe in the immaculate conception of Jesus. By this, they mean that Mary was sinless. This is why they pray the rosary with the statement: “Hail Mary! Full of Grace!” Catholics think of Mary as the new Eve. Unlike Eve, Mary always obeyed God. She is like Jesus in this way. She is the new Eve and Jesus is the new Adam. Adam and Eve died and turned to dust. The new Adam and Eve were lifted physically to Heaven. Therefore, Mary ascended into Heaven just like Jesus.


Mary in Luke 1 admits to God being her Savior. The question follows, “Why did she need a Savior?” Also, Luke 1.35 indicates that the Holy Spirit came upon Mary to overshadow her. If sinless, why did the Holy Spirit have to overshadow her? All of the human race has been tainted by the original sin of Adam and Eve. Mary is included in this. The Holy Spirit made possible the conception of the sinless Jesus. Mary simply was a handmaid of the Lord, a vessel. Certainly, she was privileged and honored by God. However, she was a sinner in need of a Savior.


Mary did not always obey. She couldn’t understand why Jesus had to be about His Father’s business in the temple when He was 12. She also hastened the opening of Jesus’ ministry in John 2. When the gathering at Cana ran out of wine, Mary said to Jesus, “They have no wine” (2.3). Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come” (2.4). Mary acknowledged her Son’s gentle but firm rebuke with a command to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (2.5).


Mary lived and died just like all of us. She needed a Savior because she was a sinner. The Holy Spirit made the conception of Jesus immaculate; Mary did not.


  1. Catholics believe that Mary was taken body and soul into Heaven. This is termed as the assumption of Mary.


There is no biblical evidence to this false doctrine. They must hold to it because sin brings death. From their perspective Mary never sinned; therefore, she could not die. Unbelievably, they cite the lack of relics (parts of her body, clothing remnants, etc) as support that she was taken up into Heaven.


  1. Catholics believe that Mary is the Mother of God. Jesus is both human and divine. Jesus is man and God at the same time. Since Mary is Jesus’ mother, then it follows for the Catholic adherent that Mary is mother of God. This puts Mary on par with deity.


But again the work of the Holy Spirit overwhelmed the sin nature of Mary so that Jesus was born without sin. Only one sinless human being ever walked the earth. Jesus was that man. He alone is the one Mediator between the Father and creation. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”” (Acts 4:12) The virgin birth is all about Jesus not Mary.


The virgin birth served as a sign of the uniqueness of the birth of Jesus Christ. But why did God send Jesus in the likeness of sinful flesh?

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