One of the electives during second hour at Assembly yesterday was a Taize-style song and prayer service. The room was dim; the rough wood cross was on the floor again, swathed in a fabric of deep blue with gold highlights; the Christ candle was lit, and terracotta platters of sand stood ready to receive our small white candles.
The service moved peacefully through scripture, silence and song, with musicians contributing their skills on piano, recorder, guitar, cello and violin. The last song, the one we sang over and over as we lit the small candles and prayed around the cross, was Within our darkest night, which includes the line, you kindle the fire that never dies away.
Something in the music sounds Spanish to me, though the composer is French, and I think of St John of the Cross, the medieval Spanish mystic and poet who drew on flame imagery to describe his experience of encountering the divine, in his poem Llama de Amor Viva -- the living flame of love.
The living flame of love. Light in the darkness.
In French, the song is not so much a statement as a prayer -- dans nos obscurites, allume le feu qui ne s'etaint jamais -- in our obscurities, our darkness-es, light the fire that never goes out.
We are coming down to the dark time of year -- the gray days, the long nights, the cold winds. Amongst those singing were those wrestling with a personal dark season -- illness, loss, grief. One young visitor struggled with tears.
I don't know what each one there carried in their hearts, what sorrows, what hopes, how they heard the words. For some, the darkness might seem overwhelming. But they were there, holding the candles, praying, being held by the song.
Light in the darkness. The living flame of love.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"