Of Candles and Community

It was a weekend lit by candles.
It was a weekend marked by community.
It was a rich time, a set apart time, 
a thoughtful and reflective time. 
Six hours on Saturday, working through a series of Ignatian
prayer exercises, every hour, on the hour.
A candle in the room where I landed helped light
the way to the inside of me,
the place where God quietly pokes and pushes
the deepest parts:
Holy Spirit, warm me and warn me;
like a candle flame –
pierce the darkness in me,
warm the space in which I live and move,
light the way forward,
remind me of Truth.
Bless me, O Lord, for I have sinned.
Guide me, O Lord, for I am blinded by the dark.
Speak to me, O Lord, for I am distracted by the glitz.
Nudge me, O Lord, for I get stuck in the muck.
Breathe in me, O Lord; I am gasping,
in need of your oxygen to find my way.
A break for lunch led to an unexpected and rich conversation.
And that led to reading through an unassigned psalm for the day – 
Psalm 71 to find verse 14:
 “As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.”
Words which brought deep release and profound
meaning for a friend.
And then, as I prayed the rest of the psalm out loud,
verse 18 seemed to call my name,
reminding me of who and where and what I am
at this point in my own journey:
“Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation, 
your mighty acts to all who are to come.” 
This is my primary call I think.
And there are days I embrace it,
and days I run from it.

Sunday morning, All Saints’ Sunday,
 brought candle upon candle,
brilliant points of light across the altar table.
As the deep bass note that begins
Vaughan Williams’ glorious hymn,
“For All the Saints,” resounded through the sanctuary,
people streamed to the front.
Each person picked up a votive candle to add to the table,
each light representing saints who have
crossed to the other side:
“O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!”
YES!
All are one in thee — for we are all thine.
I carried a candle for my father and my brother,
my husband carried one for his father and our son-in-law.
And people everywhere around the room
brought light, light, light.
I love the way these pictures came out sort of ethereally blurry, not ghost-like, but somehow a reminder that
those who’ve gone before us are every bit as real
as the ones who sit next to us in the pews.
And I believe they are that near.
We sang through the entire hymn* and then began one of my favorite contemporary songs whose words include:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come;
With all creation I sing praise to the King of Kings;
You are my ev’rything and I will adore You.”**
And still, the lights kept coming
Until we were literally ringed with it,
fluttering wicks lifting their heads to heaven,
reminding us that we belong to one another.
I loved every minute of it. 
And I am deeply, deeply grateful
for all those who’ve led the way,
kept the faith,
followed hard after Jesus
and built the church over time and around the globe.
*While looking for a video of this grand old hymn,
I stumbled across this home-made video
of a young man who looks about 14 years old!
And he’s playing it on the organ, in an Episcopal church
in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Amazing.
And it gives me hope that someone will still
be playing organs in years to come!
One of my all time favorite hymns —
and somehow, it is the organ that most makes it sing,
even without words.
And here is a version of that glorious “Revelation Song,”
written by Jennie Lee Riddle for Gateway Publishing in 2004,
sung here by Phillips, Craig and Dean.
(We do it with much less drama and a whole lotta heart.)
Joining with Michelle, Jen, Ann, Laura and Laura on this Monday night:
On In Around button

    



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Comments

  1. Reading this makes me wish I had gone to Gordon’s silent retreat in San Antonio. We’re at the time of life where most of my time goes to the kids. I suppose there will be time again for silence.

  2. amen to verse 18…may we declare His goodness…power and love with our words…with our lives…blessings to you~

  3. amen to verse 18…may we declare His goodness…power and love with our words…with our lives…blessings to you~

  4. Sylvia R @ sylvrpen.com says:

    Oh, what a blessing! First I was struck by the marked scripture, as I had just read that Psalm and fixated on verse 18. Then I experienced the growing glow of candles in multiplying symbolic abundance. And finally that young guy at the organ: He really seemed at ease, didn’t he, like it was second nature, like breathing. Breathing a sigh…

  5. There will be Marcus – and there can be, even now, though not as often as you might like. Maybe you can find a place that teaches centering prayer and do that for 30 minutes a week? Or you can read up on it and do it all by yourself at the end of a run … that is a different kind of silence but one that is restorative after you’ve done it. It shows up in how your life is lived, not so much in the moment.

  6. Thank you for stopping by, Sylvia – and glad that scripture resonated for you.

  7. Thanks, Ro – and right back at you, too.

  8. MIchelle wrote about All Saints Day and I told her I need more liturgy in my life. Is this liturgy? Or is it something else? I read this and I felt as if I’ve missed out on something. Is it always the first Sunday of November? Last year, Michelle let me tag along with her for Lenten Services and it was beautiful. I need to mark my calendar for this All Saints Day for next year.

  9. Well…. strictly speaking, All Saints’ Day is part of the liturgical calendar. So yes, it’s part of being a more liturgical body of believers. Liturgy literally means ‘the work of the people’ and usually refers to responsive conversation between a leader and the congregation. And there were no spoken words to our Sunday activity. I would call it a liturgical event or liturgical movement. The thing is Deidra, EVERY church has a liturgy of some sort – we all tend to do the same things from Sunday to Sunday, in basically the same order. Some churches do this much more formally, with a completely written-out script for congregation and celebrant. Some churches do it with an order of service that doesn’t change much from week to week. I’m guessing your lifetime experience in the American Baptist church is more like the latter. And Michelle’s 10 year experience in the Lutheran church is more like the former. My own church falls sort of in the middle between those two. We do not have a script, but we insert liturgical pieces from time to time and we try to follow the church calendar, with its seasons and special Sunday. Doe this help??

  10. Glenda Childers says:

    I love this phrase …

    Holy Spirit, warm me and warn me

    …what a beautiful prayer.

  11. Glenda, thank you for noting that phrase – that one was almost accidental (is anything in prayer??) I couldn’t read my own writing to tell whether it was warm or warn I had just written and decided I wanted to say both!! You do pick up on details in a really lovely way. Thank you.

  12. I’m exploring something called http://www.sacredspace.ie for myself and my kids, actually. It’s not quite silence, but it is helpful. Also, I like Pray as You Go. Again, not quite silence, but something closer to silence than most of the world.

  13. That site is a favorite of mine – recently redone, actually – I used it when I was ill about 10 years ago and loved it. I go back over occasionally now and am so grateful it’s out here. And it is pretty silent, actually – if you’re in a quiet space when you go through the steps. I’ve never done it with anyone else – are you doing it with your kids? Or just showing them how to do it themselves?

  14. We’ve been using several different resources for prayer and Scripture at night. I tried YouVersion, but its readings are mostly too long for my kids.

    We’ve had some success with The Daily Office from Mission St. Clare. Last night we tried Sacred Space, which includes a short reading. My daughter especially liked it.

  15. Do you follow the links out to their commentary? They’re always interesting and helpful. I like the way they organize their site – you can unfold all the links and spend 20-30 minutes or you can just go thru each step and spend 10-15. It’s one of the oldest ones out there, I think. I tried YouVersion for a while, but since I’ve retired, I find large-chunk scripture reading as such is not for me. Lectio is different. Short pieces to reflect on – not trying to shovel in the whole book in a year. That’s where I am these days. I think I’m going to write a daily Advent devo on the blog this year – I did it thru Lent last year and loved doing it – and it kept me in the Book every day. :>)

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