"The Lord upholds all those who are falling and raises up all those who are bowed down" (Psalm 145:14). "But let us fall into the hand of God, whose mercy is great" (2 Samuel 24:14). "When I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light to me" (Micah 7:8). "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat" (John 12:24).
Thursday, December 5, 2013
O Gracious Light: Advent 2013, Day Five
It was the second weekend of Advent 2008. I had said yes to spending several hours in adoration and prayer on the Saturday evening of a Rachel's Vineyard retreat being held at a monastery about twenty miles west of my home.
Dusk arrived and as I was preparing to leave my apartment, a wet, icy snow began to fall. Major accumulation had not been forecast, but driving conditions were predicted to be not good.
I set out anyway. For the second half of the trip, it was all I could do to keep my windshield clear. Nevertheless, I arrived safely at the monastery in time to begin my solo shift.
For two hours I prayed in front of the Mary-shaped monstrance holding the Body of my Lord in her heart. I worshipped with my whole body, flowing my limbs into every yoga posture I could remember, breathing deeply in and out as I held each position like the beads of a rosary, repeating the words not just with my mind but with my tongue and heart too, oblivious to what was happening outside the walls and windows of the cozy makeshift chapel.
When my shift was finished, a layer of snow and ice lay on the ground. A nun led me to a simple room in which I was to spend the night.
After preparing for bed and turning out the desk lamp, I parted the heavy curtains on the west-facing wall and looked out the room's only window. All I saw were three twinkling lights floating in the frigid, shimmering darkness. It wasn't until the morning that I could see they were perched atop tall lampposts in the monastery's parking lot.
I crawled into bed at about eleven o'clock. An hour later I awakened with these words in my mind: "Be not ashamed." They repeated over and over again like gently insistent bells. "Be not ashamed. Be not ashamed. Be not ashamed." Underneath or between or inside them was another voice: "Get up. Write this down."
So I did. Then I turned off the desk lamp again and slid back between the sheets. I was soon again asleep. In the morning, by the time I'd had a shower and eaten breakfast, the evidence of the previous night's storm had melted and I was able to return home--with a message I have never forgotten.
Oh Gracious Light, so pure and bright,
Dispel the darkness of our hearts
That by your brightness we may know the light
Incarnate Word, grant that the light
Deep enkindled in our hearts
May shine forth and give us divine life
Dayspring of life, true light from Light,
Pour into every broken heart
Peace and virtue, bind it by the light
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed, We sing thy praises in our hearts God of heaven, giver of all life
Bring your peace, hope, and love Bring your peace, Gracious One*