Passing through the narthex doors, the balance on my kids’ excitement meter tipped far right as they spied the ushers with those thin, white, paper-circle sheathed candles in hand. Of course, my meter headed in the opposite direction as I considered the possibilities ahead (think of two little balls of constant energy armed with flaming torches one inch away from flowing brunette locks and loose shirt tails). Ah, yes, a procession was in our immediate future on this Holy Thursday evening.
After ascending from the basement quiet room, with my smallest choir wannabe, on my way to receive the precious Body and Blood, I was pleasantly surprised (okay maybe just plain surprised) to find not a single candle was dangling limply from a crack down its center. Somehow in my absence Daddy had managed to keep the half a dozen sister-pokers safe or at least some inexplicable stroke of luck had been at play.
Once the last communicant returned to his seat, the altar boys began the domino of illumination. One by one, person to person, the Body of Christ passed the light from forward to back so that in moments the whole church interior was aglow in soft, flickering candlelight. And my proud offspring were smiling from ear to ear.
Seeing as the southern weather is bipolar this spring, we were woefully under-dressed for the outdoor procession. Daddy, therefore, volunteered to remain church-bound with the baby leaving me the honor of chaperoning the torch bearers single-handedly (one hand per flame wielding boy).
Cautiously we each made our way down the stone front steps as we followed the Blessed Sacrament. The initial downward movements left a few of us extinguished, so began the acts of charity as those still holding onto their warm glowing flames reached over to reignite our wicks. How beautiful it is when our normal pattern of pew-staking separateness is broken and we become the one that we are meant to be; sharing our space and our resources.
However, on this night the wind would seem the winner. By the time our feet made contact with the adjacent sidewalk, all but a handful of candles had succumbed leaving us all the more vulnerable in the cold night air. The kids, being “childlike” of course, continued their hopeful pursuit in search of re-ignition long after I’d resolved to walk in the chilly darkness.
Having wrapped my sweater around my five year old, my thin blouse was little consolation against the cold wind. Considering the open-toed sandals and skirted bare legs accompanying us in the procession, I imagine I wasn’t alone in my misery.
A few of my children had scouted ahead in search of light, but my position toward the rear left me mostly unable to see the canopy that led us. However, upon reaching the final corner I caught sight of the King’s memorial. The red altar servers’ torches at the head of the line had also lost the battle. Their glass cup protectors had failed to stave off the blustery air.
But the four tall, corner candles encircling the ciborium which housed the precious Body and Blood maintained their constancy. While we followers stumbled along in darkness, Christ’s Light remained leading the way. And isn’t that a visual portrayal of the Truth?
Earlier in the day, I’d chanced an encounter with a near occasion of sin. That is, I’d boldly and pridefully typed my two cents worth in challenge to a friend’s post on facebook (good thing confession is before Easter). The topic was local politics, specifically candidates running for office. As is the case with such discussions (okay, arguments) the lines were drawn and commentators claimed their sides.
I was heralding a long-shot runner, a devout Catholic who lives out his faith and sets his standards accordingly, but the opposition was quick to assess my choice as non-viable. Like stones in the hand of young David, they informed me there was no feasible way my contender could ever take down Goliath.
Yes, Noah’s ark was the creation of a doomsayer and David’s confidence was based on childish naïvete. Then there were those foolish disciples who believed some political agitator was the Son of God. Not to mention, all those stupid saints (like Francis) who traded riches for suffering.
How easily the winds of the world blow against our meager attempts to scatter Light. We’re left fumbling through the blackness- fearful and confused. Peter did this once the accusers dragged Jesus toward Calvary. Just hours before he’d pledged his complete devotion and endurance, but then all too quickly he recanted once the Source of his courage was withdrawn.
Though I may have given up on relighting my candle, I continued to follow the procession knowing where it was leading. Such it is in life, just because our human endeavors to evangelize may appear lost or insignificant against the spotlight of sin, we can be assured the Source of all Light, of all Truth will never cease to burn. Like Noah’s obedience, David’s courage, the disciples’ faith and the saints’ abandonment, so long as our path is illuminated by Jesus Christ we cannot go wrong.
We need only follow close, even if required to do so blindly. Whether we have benefit of other members of the Body to encourage and protect us or if we must walk alone vulnerable to the buffeting forces of opposition, we will not be misled. Christ reigns today as He did 2000 years ago and His Light will continue to shine through all eternity leading all who follow Him home.