Ireland’s clocks enjoyed their “fall” back last weekend, meaning the country is now plunged into darkness around five o’clock every evening. (And that time will only get earlier from here!) As someone who suffers greatly from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), this time of the year always puts me in a sour mood. When it’s dark out, all I want to do is snuggle under the covers and not come out until it’s light again. However, life must press on. Over the years, I’ve learned to live with the effects of SAD and to find healthy ways of cheering myself up. I can only imagine how someone who lives with this bleakness all of the time must feel.
This past Saturday, Clonard celebrated their annual Remembrance Service for the Feast of All Souls, honoring those who passed away in the parish over the last year. Family members had the chance to come up and light candles for their loved ones during the service. Seeing the grief of the bereaved was absolutely heartbreaking in some cases. Despite the different masses this weekend, one theme seemed to resound throughout them all – light.
But, wait – how could there be light amidst all of this darkness? Not only is there physical darkness with the earlier-setting sun, but there’s inner darkness, too. It can be the darkness one experiences when suffering from depression or anxiety, like my SAD; the darkness one feels while grieving a lost loved one, like those bereaved at the Remembrance Service; and even the sinking darkness of sin. Especially at this time of the year, thanks to the outside darkness, anyone could be feeling all three of these at once. So, where is light hiding?
Here is a (musical) taste of all of the light that slipped its way into Clonard’s masses this weekend…
“Longing for light, we wait in darkness. Longing for truth, we turn to you. Make us your own, your holy people, light for the world to see. Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts. Shine through the darkness. Christ, be our light! Shine in your church gathered today.”
– Christ, Be Our Light, music and text by Bernadette Farrell
“God of mercy and compassion, Lord of life and blinding light. Truth whom creatures would refashion, give to us the gift of sight. Truth insistent and demanding, love unfathomed and unknown. Life beyond all understanding, give us peace and pardon, Lord.”
– God of Mercy and Compassion, trad. French, text by M. Hodgetts
“Although your Spirit is upon me, still I search for shelter from your light. There is nowhere on earth I can escape you: even the darkness is radiant in your sight.”
– O God, You Search Me, music by Bernadette Farrell, text based on Psalm 139
“I heard the voice of Jesus say: ‘I am this dark world’s light: Look unto me, your morn shall rise, and all your day be bright.’ I looked to Jesus and I found in Him my star, my sun. And in that light of life I’ll walk till trav’ling days are done.”
– I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say, music by Michael Joncas, text by Horatio Bonar
“I am hope for all who are hopeless, I am eyes for all who long to see. In the shadows of the night, I will be your light, come and rest in me.”
– You Are Mine, music and text by David Haas
“Lead, kindly Light, amid the gloom of evening. Lord, lead me on! On through the night! On to your radiance! Lead, kindly Light!”
– Lead, Kindly Light, music by Steven C. Warner, text by John Henry Newman
“Lead me, Lord, by the light of truth to seek and to find the narrow way. Be my way, be my truth, be my life, my Lord, and lead me, Lord, today.”
– Lead Me, Lord, music by John D. Becker, text based on Matthew 5:3–12; 7:7, 13 and John 14:6
And, although we didn’t sing it, here’s the psalm response from All Souls’ Day:
“The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom should I fear?” – Psalm 27
So, back to my question of where light is… The answer is simple: It’s all around us! Jesus reminds us this weekend, between the celebration of the Feast of All Souls and in the gospel story of Zacchaeus, that He is light in all darkness. Certainly, the light sometimes feels dimmer than it is, and maybe we don’t want to believe that it’s even there at all. But, while we are experiencing much gloom in the present, we will soon be following the light of the star to Bethlehem as we look toward Christmas. And that’s just one way He reminds us we’re engulfed in His constant light. What a comforting thought this is!
Especially in times of great struggle or despair, my mom always reminds me to “wrap the white light of the Holy Spirit” around myself. I think I finally understand what she’s meant by saying that for all of these years, and I plan on doing it a lot more in the weeks to come!
P.S. This weekend also happened to be the celebration of the Hindu festival, Diwali, also known as the Festival of Light!