Bored one day in the school library many years ago, I picked up a biography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Through the pages, St. Thérèse introduced me to Jesus and this amazing life I could have if I entered into relationship with him. They say that teens feel emotions more intensely and more vividly than at any other age, and that made my “welcome” to the faith journey all the more impassioned, exciting, and all-consuming for me. I was completely in love with Jesus, and it was awesome.
For months I was on cloud nine as my newly discovered relationship with Jesus flourished. I felt confident in God’s love for me, and most days I felt as though I could actually feel God’s arms around me. But it didn’t last forever, and the day came that I couldn’t feel his presence at all. With all the intensity associated with teenaged emotions, I went into complete and total panic mode. Skipping class because I felt like the world was crumbling around me, I found myself sitting at the school chaplain’s door, waiting for her to come and restore what I was not at all ready to lose.
That day our school chaplain taught me a lesson that I still carry with me today. She turned off all the lights and let me sit in the uncomfortable darkness for a little while. Then she lit a match, and the light from that small match filled the room with its small flame. The light from that match was enough; we could see what we needed to see. She explained to me that, in the darkness, even a little light goes far. And so too with God. I won’t always need or have the great gift of feeling God’s all-consuming presence. Just a little, just a glimpse, can be enough.
I am reminded of this lesson every year at Advent. In our family, we mark the weeks of Advent using our angel chimes. We start each Advent lighting just one lonely candle, and the angels above it barely move. Jesus is still with us, just quieter, subtler. As the weeks go by, we journey closer and closer to Jesus’ coming, marking each week by lighting another candle and then another. The light grows steadily brighter, and the angels dance around the chimes with more and more exuberance, heralding Jesus’ approaching presence.
Sometimes on our journey, the light will be dim and we might feel like we need more light. Other times the light will burn brightly, and the presence of God will burn like a fire within us. But whatever the case, there will always be a little bit of light, if even just a spark. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). As we journey through this Advent, let us pray that, not only will we find a little light on our path, but that we might be that light for others—just as my school chaplain was for me that long-ago day in high school.
The story of what the Chaplain showed you was lovely. Thanks!
You have made my day. My sister and I are in the process of working with
our older brother who is in a nursing home but needs to be admitted
to a “Memory Unit”. It’s a difficult conversation to have but very necessary. The imagery that you shared will help me to get through this difficult time. Merci beaucoup !!!
This is truly a lovely reflection. I have angel chimes but never thought (or knew) about lighting the little candles, one for each week of Advent. Thank you and I thank Ignatian Spirituality for all that you do!
Cara what a lesson your school chaplain taught you (and me,all these years later)..beautiful imagery
Oh, my…I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! I had that exact same angel chime for many many years! I loved watching the Angels rotate around and around. As the heat from the candles lit below the Angels ascended the Angels would spin around and around ever so gently causing the chimes to ring ever so softly.. It was one of my all time favorite Christmas decorations. It calmed my spirit and rested my soul. As I watched transfixed I would think of that “O most holy night when angels sang Aleluia hail to the newborn King.” Thank you for bringing back such a lovely memory.
So much truth in this reflection! Ignatian Spirituality gets you to the matches and others who have them, right?
The imagery of light is the one I most often use when I pray or meditate. Thank you for such a beautiful Advent reflection.
Cara you’ve really encouraged me. I always want to remain in God’s presence but at times I feel as if I am not in His presence. Thank you I’ve known that He is always with me.
Cara, that was simply beautiful. I just love the imagery (and I think I might have to buy one of those angel chimes! How lovely to remember God is always there, even when we are not experiencing God’s presence so loudly!
Cara, what a beautifully inspiring message for all of us. Thank you for sharing this wise counsel that you received as a teen. Blessings to you and your family.