Saturday, December 6, 2014



Each morning during Vigils and Lauds I watch the church windows slowly lighten with the gray glow of early
sunrise. It’s especially striking at this time of year: when we begin our prayer a 6:00 it’s pitch black outside, so the stained glass windows opposite me are dead and dark. Then, as the psalms go on, I glance up from time to time to check for the first glow of light. If it’s a rainy morning, then the telltale brightening is delayed, but sooner or later the windows start to glow.

As we were singing Lauds this morning and the windows were clearly brightening, I had the thought that it was our praying that got the sun to rise.  There’s a phrase in Psalm 108 that says “Awake lyre and harp! I will awake the dawn!” That’s what we were doing.

The Scriptures are filled with imagery of light from start to finish, from the opening verses of Genesis when the Creator says “Let there be light,” to the final page of the Book of Revelation,
that says that the Heavenly Jerusalem has no need of lamps because “The Lord himself is its light.”

Each Saturday night after supper we monks gather in the rear of the dark church for a short reading and prayer around the lighted paschal candle; then we follow the candle in procession into the darkened church while singing a hymn in praise of the Light. Of course the symbolism works much better in December than it does in June. I suppose there’s a good lesson in that: the darker things are in my life, the more I need and appreciate the help of Christ our Light.


The other day one of my brother monks was mentioning the problem of seasonal light deprivation, and how some people get severely depressed when the amount of sunlight diminishes. If you Google “seasonal affective disorder (SAD)” you come up with a whole lot of advertisements for light boxes and other gadgets that put the light back in your life. Apparently just a relatively brief exposure each day to the right kind of light can make a huge difference in people's mood.

It crossed my mind this morning that we Christians can feel out of sorts when we’re deprived of another kind of light - the Light of Christ. We need His presence as surely as we need sunlight, and our quality of life suffers if we are deprived of the presence of that Light.


We can stay close to the Light by prayer, by reading scripture and attending church, of course.
But during this depressing season of too-long nights and frantic rushing around preparing for “the holidays,” if
you find yourself feeling a little low, here are some simple home remedies for Spiritual Light Deprivation Syndrome.You can draw closer to the Light when you are generous to someone in need, or gentle with someone who is upset. You can enjoy the glow of Christ’s presence by going out of your way for someone else; or try putting your own preferences second in favor of someone else’s. These and many other centuries old folk remedies have been working since Old Testament times, and especially since the days of the earliest Christians. Even a relatively brief exposure to these actions can make a huge difference in ones life.

If we pay attention to the messages of this Advent season about hope, preparing our hearts, reforming our lives and making crooked ways straight, we’ll find that they also turn ut to be good advice for overcoming Light deprivation in our lives.


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