This Little Light
It’s always a bit of a surprise. A pumpkin in a window. A string of electric lights with little plastic jack-o-lanterns illuminated all in a row. It’s going to be Halloween in a few days, but it’s a surprise to me. The holidays I’d known so well on the mainland, the celebrations that seemed monthly to mark the progress of a year don’t have nearly the same prominence as they once did. And it’s remarkable that so much of this trick is accomplished by the treat of the seasons in our lives.
This is the fifty-second “Weekly Message from T. J.” Though it hasn’t been a calendar year since we began communicating in this way—vacation and study leave meant some weeks were missed—we now have a year’s worth of weeks where we have looked together at life. We have been through all of the seasons that we know so well that mark the turning of the year. And many of us have also been through seasons in our own lives—seasons of renewal, seasons of mourning, seasons of all kinds. But the turning of the Earth spinning round the sun we share with all life works differently here.
One of the great metaphors for Unitarian Universalism comes from Forrest Church, the past minister of my home congregation, All Souls in NYC. He calls our faith the Cathedral of the World. And in the cathedral there are many windows, colored splendidly and beautifully. If we look at the cathedral, we can see all the splendor of the many places we can choose to stand. We can bask in different lights and see different views depending where we are. But all through the cathedral, no matter how splendid and intricate the light might be streaming through the windows, all the light comes from the same place. All the light comes from one sun.
Over the course of a year, the sun will shine and shine here in our midst. Through every pane, through every shard of glass, the rich luminous light, day after beautiful day, casts a rainbow of ways we see the world, a prism of belief, perhaps more than many other places on earth. But here in the harvest holidays we know so well, a different light comes again. Not a light cast bright and bold from the heavens through the old windows.
Instead, the more I am used to the bright abundance of the sun, it is rather a warm flicker I feel more and more, like something lighting a smile grinning slyly from a porch as the world’s children stroll by. It feels at times like a gentle hand placed that inside which shows every neighbor every line and shape of the way we peer out at the world. A light far from eternal, yet still a tiny cathedral lit wholly with a single flame, the light of a life that knows a harvest must come…and yet smiles all the more.
And may it ever be so.
Rev. T. J.