This icon of Christ hangs on the wall of the chapel at the Hermitage Retreat Center. It caught my eye when I attended a Taize evening prayer service there back in March. This was just after our co-pastor Heidi had been in the hospital for a week, receiving a new cancer treatment. It was not successful and she was suddenly looking much more frail and exhausted than she had before.
In the songs and silence of the Taize service, the awareness of Heidi's illness, the impact on her family, and on our congregation hit me at a new, grief-filled depth. I found comfort in prayers at the foot of the cross, and in gazing on this icon across the room. I hadn't looked closely at it yet, and it was only afterwards that I saw with delight that it is Christ as Light Giver.
Light continued to weave itself through the Opening to Grace retreat last weekend. I told something of the first session yesterday. Saturday was another rich day, with four people having focus sessions. There were many tears and much laughter, struggle, and light, as well as some time to wander in the woods and meadows, enjoying discoveries like this monarch caterpillar feasting on milkweed.
On Sunday morning, I experienced another grace-filled moment of light and shadow. At the end of our last session, we were all standing in a loose circle outside, surrounding the woman who had been working and two people who supported her on either side, and we began singing Prayer of Peace by David Haas.
Each verse follows the same pattern, only the subject changing -- first peace, then love, light, and Christ.
Peace before us, peace behind us, peace under our feet.
Peace within us, peace over us, let all around us be peace.
Like several others there, I know hand motions to this song, and we began doing them. As we sang the verse "Light before us....let all around us be light," I noticed my shadow. The sun was behind me, and my shadow was at my feet, spread before me. There was some space between me and the people to either side, so it was quite distinct and I found myself watching it as we sang and moved, feeling the warmth of the sun on my shoulders.
With the last verse, I stood with my arms wide spread and slightly lifted, turning in a circle as we sang "Let all around us be Christ," ending with my shadow like a chalice shape before me. And I glimpsed an awareness that yes, somehow in Christ both shadow and light are held. Tears and laughter, sorrow and joy, all intermingled.
And I remembered the last time I had sung this song was the Sunday before, at the end of our Pentecost service. During our second hour, we had a recognition of Heidi's pastoral work in our midst and we closed with the dance group leading us in this prayer of peace, another day when tears and laughter, joy and sorrow danced together, held together in the Body of Christ.
( I'd love to include a clip of our dance group, with their colorful scarves, but don't have it in a form to post. There is a youtube clip of another liturgical dance group, with their version of the same song here -- Prayer of Peace starts at 4:47.)
"Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"
I've taken on a prayer practice of looking for the moments of light in each day, whether actual or metaphorical, and then writing or posting photos of what I find.