When we sang O Little Town of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve I was reminded that it was written by Phillips Brooks. I knew he had been an important member of the clergy in Boston, but not much more. I happened upon Brooks again reading a sermon on Psalm 19 which included a reference to his friendship with Helen Keller. (I further discovered Ascension’s fourth rector, the Rev. Dr. E. Winchester Donald, was called to take Brooks’s place at Trinity Church, Boston, after Brooks became Bishop of Massachusetts.)
Psalm 19 speaks of all that is around us: creation, the universe, sun, warmth, how God’s work is revealed so we feel the Holy Spirit, “day after day” and “night after night” and “they have no speech, they use no words.” I have certainly felt this in the world; the beauty and sometimes very welcome gift of silence to “hear” what has no need to be spoken.
You may already know the story about the correspondence between Helen Keller and Phillips Brooks, but it was my first reading. An article by the Rev. Barbara Crafton describes their close friendship and how “Helen told Bishop Brooks that she had always known about God, even before she had any words and “in her darkness and isolation, she knew she was not alone.” In one of her letters to Brooks, Helen said that her teacher explained to her that “the best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor even touched, but just felt in the heart.”