Last night I hosted the staff Christmas party here at the rectory. In preparing our home for the festivities—which always includes a raucous round of Yankee Swap—I lit all the candles in the living room.
Because the room is large and has no ceiling light fixture, we have a number of lamps scattered around. But it’s never enough light. So we put candles and votives all along the mantle, on end tables, on the piano, in the window sills, on book shelves. Maybe twenty flames.
At night’s end, when everyone went home, I cleaned up the last of the dirty plates and glasses and blew out all the candles. I started with the tapers surrounded by globes on the mantle and worked my way around the room, whiffing one flame after another until a light haze of smoke hovered near the ceiling.
Then I turned off all the lamps and started to leave.
That’s when I saw it. One light flickered in the darkness. One votive tucked beside a vase on a corner table—I’d missed it.
I could see it only in the darkness.
This is the season when we watch for the light. If you want to see the stars, though, you would be foolish to stargaze at noon. Just so, our search for that one small flickering light is hindered by a kind of light pollution. There are too many flashy images, too many garish temptations, too many glowing video screens.
The Light of Christ is powerful but small. It is a little like the half-hidden votive that I could not see until I had extinguished all other candles and lamps. If we want to see that Light, we are wise to turn things off for just ten or fifteen minutes, be for a time in the darkness until it isn’t really dark anymore, because our spiritual eyes adjust and we begin to see another kind of light—as if our inner eye were seeing with night vision goggles. This phenomenon is what St. John of the Cross called “luminous darkness.”
Blow out the other nineteen candles in your life, turn out all the lamps. My, what Light you may see!