Before Thanksgiving, I was on a week-end retreat with nine other women at the Sisters of Loretto Motherhouse located in eastern Kentucky. The Catholic Sisters have lived on the land for over 200 years.
On Saturday evening, four of us drove a short distance on the curvy country roads to the Abbey of Gethsemani where Thomas Merton once lived. We went to chant evening prayers with the monks at Compline. Since we arrived early before other visitors and retreatants, a pitch black and empty narthex greeted us.
As we walked into the cavernous church, a lone candle glowed at the altar to guide our steps. We sat in the visitors’ space in silent darkness waiting for the monks to arrive. Walking with soft feet in silence, the monks took their places in the choir stalls. After the monks sang Salve Regina to the Virgin Mary, Compline was over.
On our drive back to our retreat house, we were suddenly blinded by a country field ablaze with Christmas lights probably visible from outer space! It was Ruley’s Christmas Light Farm complete with Santa and baby Jesus on two acres and one million lights.
The super-sized Santa and the dazzling lights seemed a complete contrast to the solitary candle at the church that cast a vertical beam of light towards the heavens.
There is a time for the pleasure of one million Christmas lights. And…there is a time to seek and find a reverent moment to sit in darkness with the light of only one candle.
There is a light that shines in the darkness, which is only visible there.
Barbara Brown Taylor ~ Learning to Walk in the Dark