Tag Archive | light

This Little Light of Mine

 “This little light of mine,

I’m gonna let it shine;”

my husband hums the familiar

tune as I sip my morning tea; later

he will sing with the church choir

this syncopated psalm of thanks

for little lights that bravely shine

in all the darkness encroaching

on our deeply troubled world.

I will not hear that joyful sound, but…

*

outside my window, a little

light shines quietly for me, a floral

candle of delicate, shimmering filaments,

lacy whiteness whispering its quiet radiance;

so unlike the neons of our gaudy

world of celebrities and ego tweets,

so unlike bright chandeliers

aglow with pomp and pride that

only shadow deeds of darkness.

*

Bless you, little light; shine on

in your wee corner of this vast

and anxious world; few will see

your radiant smile, but those who do

will quiet sing a psalm of thanks; will even

shine, perhaps, a little brighter themselves.

Light in the Darkness

El Greco's Savior

“Savior of the World”

El Greco ( 1541 – 1614)

A dark December day;

dark outside my winter window;

dark inside our too-still house;

dark through all the muscles

of my body, of my mind.

Bombs and missiles frighten

angels in the skies, and bullets shatter

trust across our neighborhoods and schools.

Darkness surrounds and swallows up—almost,

the candles of this waiting Advent time.

*

I turn to the icon* silent in my hands:

El Greco’s “Savior of the World.”

More darkness there:

     of eye,

          of eyebrows,

               of hair, of beard.

And framing all the Christ, a shroud of midnight black:

     threatening,

          brooding,

               dense.

*

I want to turn away, to find a brighter Christ,

the baby Christ of promised peace, the One

to bind and blind the darkness all around.

And then I see.

Behind the darkness, through the darkness, into the darkness,

a strangely halo-ed square of light

shines round the Savior’s face;

shines through his penetrating eyes;

shines onto his blood-red tunic;

shines across his hands, atop his blue-royal robe;

shines un-dimmed by the darkness;

shines in quiet confidence;

shines toward that time when darkness

will be no more.

For now, it is still dark around me.

For now, it is still dark within me.

But as I look into those tender, sorrowful eyes,

a little of that halo-ed light shines hopeful

into me; for now, that is

enough.

*****

*I know. El Greco’s “Savior of the World” is not “officially” an icon, but for me it has become one—even without the sanction of a higher authority.

Openings

Openings

a small opening in a massive rock at Joshua Tree National Park

***

     The Easter icon sits quietly on my prayer table.  The risen Christ, face radiant, but very, very sober, raises his arms in triumph and in benediction.  I look carefully and slowly and try to work my way into the aura of the icon.  To feel the blessing of the One who stands so solemnly before me.  The seconds tick away.  I would like to say “the minutes tick away”, but I’m still such a novice at this business of meditative silence and listening.  The icon gradually becomes for me an opening, a place where I can, however briefly, step into a world beyond the confines of this skin, these bones.  A place where I can experience a deeper world beyond the shallows of my mundane life, a space filled with a love that encompasses my most secret hopes and fears.

     The pastor comes to visit, and, as sacred words draw us to a place of dying, rising love, we taste the bread of body broken in the cold and heat of all earth’s sorrow and sin.  We sip the wine of holy blood shed for us and for all people  And once again, I feel my little world opening to a vastness that stretches through all time and then beyond to mystery of Word that spoke all that is into being.  To mystery of Word that became flesh and lived among us, to draw us, unite us to the One who spoke the cosmic light that shattered, and continues to shatter, the darkness all around: the darkness of what happened in Boston yesterday, the darkness that often casts shadows across our fragile lives, the darkness that covers Syria, North Korea, and scores of other troubled places around our world.

     The red-bellied woodpecker swoops to the suet that hangs just outside our kitchen window.  Black, beady eyes flash under the radiant splash of red that crowns his regal head.  I stop whatever I am doing.  I stand and watch, transfixed by such beauty, such poise, such burst of joyous color.  And once again my small world opens up, opens to the intricate immensity of life pulsing under his wings, a pulsing linked to throbs and rhythms that have been beating through aeons of time and across the vastness of space that soars beyond our tiny world.

     Openings.  Tiny piercings of the filmy barrier that separates the now from the forever; the mortal from the immortal; this too, too solid flesh from a world of spirit energy bursting just beyond our limited sight.  Openings.  Grace-filled apertures that call me to a place of wonder, to a place of hope, to a place of realities that often burst the boundaries of mere words.

  

Advent Darkness and Light

latour61

“The Newborn”

Georges de la Tour (1593-1652)

Georges de la Tour’s painting calls me to a profound stillness before his riveting portrayal of the stark contrast between the darkness and the light.  The darkness is so deep.  The light is so bright.  And while there is some debate as to whether or not the artist was actually depicting the Christ child with his mother and St. Anne or simply a French village birth, we certainly can see the gospel story of Christ’s birth imaged in this intense focus on darkness and light.

There is so much darkness in our world today as we approach the holy season of Christmas.  Not just the darkness of the shortened days huddled around the winter solstice, but a deeper darkness.  Wars continue to rage across the globe.  Illness and financial worries darken many of our personal lives.  Poverty persists behind the bright rich facades of so many cities.

I recently read the 2012 National Book Award for nonfiction, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo.  It’s a book that tells the story of teen-age Abdul and his family and neighbors, and it powerfully depicts the darkness of life in Annawadi, a wretched slum in the shadow of the airport in Mumbai, India. Abdul’s “job” is to collect, sort, and sell the recyclable garbage scraps thrown out by the airport and the luxurious airport hotels.  Alongside these hotels, flashy billboards advertise elegant tiles that promise to be “beautiful forever” for those who can afford them.  Abdul’s mother longs to have some of these tiles for her tiny slum shack.  Instead, she daily sweeps her uneven stone floor, not-so-beautiful, knowing that, no matter how hard she works, she never can sweep away all the forever grime that seeps into the lives of her family.  Life is dark and difficult and ever so precarious for the citizens of Annawadi.  As it is for so many who live in the slums of big cities around our world.

As it was in that murky stable so long ago when Mary cradled the infant Christ and watched with wonder as Light shone into the gloomy darkness of her world.  Shone and continues to shine, as it shines so vividly in de la Tour’s beautiful painting of the newborn.  Shines in the love we share with each other in these holy days of Advent and Christmas.  Shines in the joy and hope that Christmas renews in our lives.  Shines in every act of kindness, in every step towards justice for which we work and pray.  Shines and points the way to a world in which Abdul will no longer awaken each day to the dark bleakness of his poverty.

Christmas lights cannot hide the darkness lurking behind all the “beautiful forevers” of our world.  Christmas carols cannot muffle the anguished sighs of Abdul and those like him around the world.  But neither can all this darkness extinguish the Light that we celebrate with our Christmas lights and carols.  For “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5).

It can be so disheartening to look across our broken world and see all the dark shadows that cloud so many lives. We know we won’t be able to right all the wrongs or cure all the maladies.  But maybe we can learn anew to focus on the Light that shone in Bethlehem’s stable long ago.  On the Light that de la Tour so hauntingly portrays.  On St. John’s sure promise that darkness will not overcome that Light.  And as we focus on that Light and celebrate all that Christmas means in our lives and in our world, maybe we can once again bring to the manger the gift of ourselves and offer “our hearts and minds as channels of the Light that wants to flow through every available opening” (from Robert Corin Morris’ Wrestling with Grace).