This Advent I have been struck by how beautiful the interior of the church is depending on the time of day. On Tuesdays and Fridays we have a mass at 12:00 noon, and prior to the mass on both days the Angelus is recited facing the Mary statue in the chapel. On some days I feel as if I need sunglasses, for the light's strength through the stained glass is overpowering.
A couple of weeks ago on a Saturday morning after the Marian Mass, we were commenting about how the light shimmers against the Lady Chapel triptych. The chapel altar is east-facing - both the priest and the faithful face God in the same direction. During the Eucharistic Prayer, the light was dancing on the triptych, and the starburst became three-dimensional. It was as if all of us were gazing into the cosmos, experiencing God's eternal presence.
It is not just during the mid-day that the light is beautiful. This past Saturday at 4:00 pm, as evening was falling, I was preparing to hear confessions, and I was amazed by the light pouring into the chancel area against the high altar wall. I had to stop and take a photo. The light pouring into the church, in all those different colors, reminded me of God's grace so freely offered to us in the gift of confession. And night-time brings another type of beautiful light - the church aglow with candles. Our evensongs this past Advent have been particularly peaceful and full of hope.
The second collect of Christmas, which we shall hear at the midnight mass states, "O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven." There is so much light imagery that we experience at Christmas. There is the brightness of the star, there is the flash appearance of the heavenly hosts, and there is the True Light which is Jesus Christ. On Christmas Eve we have the light of the candles brightening the dark night, and on Christmas Day we have the blinding sun, the Trinity shining in full force upon the creation.
With the dark news coming out of Syria and Berlin this week, coupled with the increased concerns for the health of our environment, and the sharpening political tension in our country, it can seem as if the light has been extinguished. It is so easy to lose hope. The same was true during the time of Jesus' birth. Bethlehem was occupied by a foreign power, and the local ruler Herod was obsessed with his own narcissism. Like so many families in Syria today, the holy family would have to flee to escape death, becoming refugees in Egypt.
Yet regardless of humans and our continual dysfunction, the light of Christ still shines. For Christians, believing in the light of Christ is actually a form of resistance, and it is the only form of resistance that can ultimately triumph. It may seem that at times the darkness shall overcome the world, but ultimately when Christmas Day comes, and even more importantly, when Easter morning arrives, the Light shall be shining with a magnitude that no human sin can ever extinguish. May this Light come quickly and save us all.