24 December at Grand Yoff
One of the brothers living in Dakar writes:
Just like every Christmas Eve, we can see a large marquee being set up at the nearby cross roads and reaching right to our door. It blocks all the traffic. People bring carpets, a platform, chairs and some armchairs for the dignitaries; and a very impressive sound system, with an electricity generator to take care of any possible overflow. The loud speakers are obviously directed in such a way as to cover the entire neighbourhood, us included. From 3 pm we can’t hear ourselves speak in our little courtyard. We are told that the aim is to organise nights of prayer and religious songs for the young Moslems! There is nothing against us. But what are we to become, with the little prayer vigil we had planned?
As evening approaches, we try to negotiate. The big tent is still empty; at present there are only the organisers, neighbours we know well. We explain that this evening we too would like to celebrate the birth of Jesus, with a vigil, mostly in silence. “No problem! We are your family!” And the sound system stops immediately. “When you have finished, just let us know.”
A beautiful vigil, joyful and meditative, with children, young people and some of the mothers. Our courtyard is like the humble stable on the night in Bethlehem. When we finish around mid night, whenever the children leave the house, the loud speakers start up afresh. We will not close an eye tonight.
One of the brothers writes: “There are no mountains in Senegal. Everything is desperately flat. So how can we live the Feast of the Transfiguration?
We go up onto the terrace of the house at six o’clock in the morning. It is still night. A priest friend has come to celebrate the Eucharist with us. Young people have come, some of them from quite far away. The children arrive one after the other, still drowsy as they climb the stairs, some dragging their mothers with them. We can begin. Little by little the singing becomes more assured…
It is almost cool. There will be no rain today, just a light breeze and some clouds in the sky. The dawn breaks gently, and the birds start to sing. We have passed unawares from night to the light of day. What a parable!”