Celebrating The Light, Shining Brightly
Published: March 2, 2006
It was the Feast of the Presentation, and we gathered in the cloister, very early in the morning, for a procession around the cloister and into the church. It was as well a Feast of Light and is still a major feast day in some parts of the world. I am not sure as to the symbolism of the lights, but I do know that it is a long tradition.
The Gospel spoke of the revelation given to two old people—Anna and Simeon. They had waited all their lives for the coming of the Messiah.
The revelation comes as an Infant. They can hold in their arms and hearts the meaning of “it all.” They can caress the God who made them.
They can love the very One who is the source of their joy. They love with what God has given them.
It is a feast of the importance of waiting. It is a feast of the wisdom that comes only with age, the passing of years. As human lights grow dim, the light that is God shines ever more brightly.
The monks all lit their candles, and the procession began. We sang a Latin hymn called “Lumen,” which means light. It was still dark. We moved slowly, for many of the monks are old. Some used walkers, some used canes, a few were in wheelchairs, and there were one or two motorized vehicles. The old monk next to me had a hard time walking since he held the candle in one hand and with the other hand he was guiding his metal walker. There was a strong wind that morning, and his candle blew out. I gave him another light from mine. I looked ahead of me and other candles were going out, but they, too, were relit with the help of those monks whose candles still burned.
The Latin chant was Gregorian, and it was beautiful.
All history moves toward its fulfillment in God. It is of course a vast movement, an immense thing to try and understand. Perhaps it is best approached through faith.
We moved along, toward the church. We entered the church and began Mass.
I do not remember much Latin but liked the chant.
I do not understand the scientific intricacies of light, but I know that it is something we can share with tallow and wick. Keep a watchful eye for those near you who need our light as it yet burns—through your words, your time, your kindness. For these, too, are light.
It is good to receive light from others when we are buffeted by an unexpected wind and the little light we have is extinguished.
How little I really understand. Mystery that this life is, this small place we have in the universe. But move through it we must, through the darkness, sharing what lights we have and one day entering a place of holiness and eternal light.
It is a place best known, perhaps, by the old. They have longed for it so long and yet have shared something of it their whole lives by how they loved and waited. The Light draws them ever nearer to a Place no wind can extinguish, nor darkness dim.
It was so dark that morning but the light of the stars and moon were high above. And the lights held by young and old were below, inching along, burning with hope. It was beautiful. It was truthful. It was worth waiting for, as is all of history.
Father James Stephen Behrens, OCSO, is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. He is the author of “Grace Is Everywhere: Reflections of an Aspiring Monk,” which is available at the monastery Web store at www.trappist.net.