In the early afternoon, one can step into chapel and witness an amazing light display that happens only during the late fall and early winter months. The southerly-angled sunlight beams through the clerestory windows and splashes itself on the north wall of the chapel. Although there have been multiple attempts to capture the softly glowing colors with a camera, the outcome always has been disappointing. One must be present to experience it in person to feel the full effect. It is like being transported into the tube of a kaleidoscope with bouncing colors of all shapes and sizes dancing all around.
‘Tis the season in which we celebrate the stark contrast of darkness and light. We go out into towns and neighborhoods in the evening to see Christmas light displays of all kinds. We dim the overhead lights in our homes to enjoy the glow of a newly decorated Christmas tree. We choose to go into the darkness that we may better appreciate the wonderment of light. Unlike the rest of the calendar year when the interplay of light and darkness is less appreciated, Christmas lights have the capacity to elicit experiences of joy and peace, warmth and delight–experiences that cannot be captured in a photo or a video. It requires being “in the moment” to feel the full effect with all of one’s senses, including one’s spiritual senses.
Typically, we expect some sense of wonderment, joy, and gratitude to come at this holiday season, but how open are we to this during the other seasons of our daily lives? Are there cracks in the veneer of our preoccupied pursuit of success, achievement, and dutiful functionality that allow us to glimpse extraordinary moments of peace, wonderment and joy? Do we allow ourselves to be “stopped in our tracks” by an unanticipated appearance of beauty? Are there moments to rest and to breathe and to soak in nurturing sights, sounds, and touches? When we are too busy trying to be in control of our lives and “have it all together,” are we really living? Or, are we passing life by as if on an express train to somewhere else?
May this season of Advent waiting leading into the celebration of Christmas awaken us to the little moments of God’s presence bursting forth in our lives.
By Sister Therese Haydel, OSB