Don’t Let the Light Go Out

January 6, 2022

“Pointing to another world will never stop vice among us; shedding light over this world can alone help us.” Walt Whitman

In the Christian tradition, January 6 marks the Feast of the Epiphany, the moment that the Christ-Child was recognized by those beyond his small world and so made universal. Astrologers, we are told, followed a star that led them to the home where the Light was alive. Their gifts not only identified him (gold for a king) and frankincense (incense for a priest) but also prophesied the shadows in his future: myrrh, an embalming ointment, symbolizing his death.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Desmond Tutu

In tragic irony, January 6, 2021, was the date chosen by those who planned and carried out the assault on the Capitol Building of the United States of America. It was the bleakest day of my life, and the images are seared in my mind as much as those of the crumbling twin towers. This assault came from within, from hatred and anger. This assault shattered my naive belief in the “united” states and threatened the gift and privilege of democracy while also marring a feast day that I have celebrated since a child, a feast day of Light.

“An age is called ‘dark’ not because the light fails to shine but because people refuse to see it.” James Michener

On social media, a woman commented recently that we should forget the assault, ignore its anniversary, because it overshadows both Epiphany and her husband’s birthday. “Overshadowing” is exactly why we need to remember January 6, 2021 because we continue to be overshadowed by lies, deceit, conspiracies, hate, and violence. We need the Light, however and whoever we perceive it to be, in the darkness of this present time where the King Herods of the world are intent on destroying anything or anyone that threatens their power. We need to be the light.

“Light. Light. The visible reminder of Invisible Light.” T.S. Elliot

The only action I know to take this day of solemn, sorrowful, and painful remembrance and this day of recognizing joy, light, and love in our world is to light candles, everywhere I can, to pay homage to the Light, to recommit myself to it, to light whatever candle of truth, peace, justice that may dwell within me.

“Light your candles quietly, such candles as you possess, wherever you are.” Alfred Delp

I had researched several more quotations about light to include in this blog, but instead will leave with this link to an old, and so relevant, song by Peter, Paul, and Mary: Light One Candle. Their words speak much more eloquently than mine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTRfVnygo1U

Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to find us together
With peace as the song in our hearts

May it be so. Blessings ~ Rosemary

Photo by Ian Hutchinson on Unsplash

2022:  Yes!

January 1, 2022

“For all that has been, thank you.  For all that is to come, yes!” ~ Dag Hammarskjöld

This morning, on the dawn of another new year, it is challenging to say “thank you” for all that has been, especially over these last two years.  How do we say “thank you” for an ongoing global pandemic, riotous politics and social upheavals, dissension and violence, lost jobs and opportunities, catastrophic natural disasters, a wounded and dying planet?  To say those two words requires a certain boldness; to find some kind of meaning in the midst of all of the turbulence requires a theology in something—or someone—larger than us.  For me, I am thankful to be alive.  I am thankful that my loved ones have thus far survived.  I am thankful that I realize that these blessings have nothing to do with me but with gift, gratis, grace from whatever name we choose for Universe/God/Other.

While saying “thank you” may be difficult, saying “Yes!” to 2022 may even be more demanding, may even require a bit of ledge-stepping.  Someone recently posted on Facebook that 2022 is pronounced “2020, too.”  What a dismal thought!  Yet, not impossible.  To get to the yes takes some courage, along with, again, boldness.  An artist friend of mine defined being “bold” as: “Bold to ask for what you truly want. Bold to share your humble art. It’s not linear but exponential blessings- pressed down, shaken together and running over!”  Yes!

We’ve all been at a place in our lives where what we had thought would be wasn’t.  Disappointment is one of the first realities we experience.  It is so often easier to grieve over what didn’t happen, to take our toys and go home, or to envy the lives of others, rather than to accept our own lives, our own situations and choices, as they are, where we are, where God is.  Now.  This acceptance is not passive or a type of giving up; it is a challenge to accept those things that cannot be changed, while also an invitation to embrace the life that is ours and make something of it. “Yes” is an action word.

So, I am looking 2022 in the eye and declaring a resounding YES!  My “humble art” includes this blog and my poetry.  Others may be/are better, more successful, more published.  My handful of followers may be few, but I say “yes” to each precious one of them:  yes to showing up, yes to creating, yes to sharing, yes to being thankful for them, yes to this unique life that is mine.  Imagine a world full of YES. I hope that you will add the power of your “yes” to mine.

Blessings for health, peace, and joy in 2022!  ~ Rosemary

New Year 2022

Birds gather at the feeder
on this heavy dismal New Year’s
Day, the sky a swath of leaden
gray: black-capped chickadee,
peach-breasted titmouse, sleek-headed
nuthatch, fat red finch, ladder-backed
woodpecker, even a curious
mourning dove hopeful for
spilled seed. The cardinal,
a scarlet flame against the sullen
sky, nudges each one aside
as he claims his kingdom.
From time to time, a red-tailed
hawk with eager eye glides
over the leafless trees
taking stock
and the flock scatters
in a flash of wings,
only to return, one at a time,
to perch on a slick branch
each awaiting its turn
for the black-polished seed,
its resolute “yes” to life,
my “yes” as well.

© Rosemary McMahan

Photo credit: Pixabay

O Antiphons ~ Emmanuel

December 23, 2021

O Emmanuel, you are our king and judge, the one whom the peoples await and their Savior. O come and save us, Lord, our God.

Two days before Christmas, in this Advent season of waiting and longing, the seventh, and final, name for the Christ (or Light, or Love, if you prefer) proclaimed in the ancient prayer-song of the O Antiphons is found in Isaiah 7:14:   Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

Emmanuel:  “God with us.”  Of the four stories of the Christ, the good news of the gospels, Matthew and Luke are the two evangelists that include the birth story, and their telling is quite different from each other.  In Matthew’s narrative, “God with us” comes in the midst of a Roman occupation with an unwanted male infant that King Herod tries to kill and so must be hidden.  “God with us” occurs in dreams that lead Joseph to take his family to Egypt and wisemen to disobey Herod’s orders and “go another way.”  Jesus, the Christ, becomes “God with us” as the new Moses who will lead God’s people not out of Egypt but out of themselves and into the Light.

For Luke, “God with us” appears to the least likely—to an old woman and a teenaged girl, second class citizens, and to shepherds, third class citizens, made unclean by Jewish standards because of their care of dirty animals.  “God with us” is the one who walks among the least of us, the poor and powerless, and surprises the faithful and long-waiting, Simeon and Anna.  “God with us” meets us exactly where we are, as we are, with love and compassion, mercy and longing.  “God with us” means we are never again alone.

Prayer:  O Emmanuel, as the day of your birth draws close, help us to be still enough to receive you.  Whenever we see a candle burn, a light on a tree sparkle, outside decorations glow, let us take those sights as reminders of your Light and Love upon us and upon everyone.  Guide us out of ourselves and toward you, and help us to be Light-bearers to those who live in darkness, those who need to know both peace and joy. You are with us and within us, and so we can rejoice, even now.  May it be so.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

If you would like to listen to this prayer-song, here is a link to the artist Lauren Daigle’s version:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGw0QK6ICZA.

Blessings of joy and peace to you.  ~  Rosemary

Photo credit Pixabay

O Antiphons ~  King of Nations

December 22, 2021

O King of Nations, whom all the peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one. O come and deliver the creature you fashioned from the dust of the earth.

Three days before the birth of the Light, in the O Antiphons, the ancient prayer-song of waiting and expectation, the sixth title given to the Christ (or Light, or Love, if you prefer) is King of Nations, based on the prophecy found in Isaiah 2:4: He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Here is the title for Christ/Light/Love with which I most struggle because Jesus, whoever we believe him to be, never asked to be a king.  Born in humble surroundings to a teenaged blue collar girl in the midst of an occupied country, Jesus demonstrated that same humbleness his entire life.  Whenever people expected him to be king, to wage war, to conquer the Romans, to lift up sword, he did exactly the opposite.  Whenever people wanted to name him king, he always pointed above to God, never to himself.  Because he would not succumb to the lure and power of being an earthly king, he was crucified.

As I ponder the kingship of Jesus this Advent, I realize that Christians worldwide, often including myself, have taken the easier road of putting Jesus on a throne and worshiping him as king rather than accepting his invitation to follow him in servanthood and humility as a disciple.  If we did indeed truly follow King Jesus, then his kingdom would indeed be coming about: 

6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 9: 6-11)

Prayer:  O King of Nations, as we long for your coming, for your light and your love, help us to realize that we are the ones you have invited to make your kingdom a reality.  So many of us still expect you to be a king who invades this world to “sets things right” as we passively watch, and yet that is not what you proclaimed.  If you are truly born in our hearts, then we will follow you—not just worship you–in creating a world where there is no hurt, destruction, war, or injustice.  Help us to understand the true nature of your servant-kingship and to accept your invitation to follow.  May it be so.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Blessings to you ~ Rosemary 20rosepoet20@gmail.com

O Antiphons ~ Radiant Dawn

December 21, 2021

O Radiant Dawn, you are the splendor of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

Four days before the birth of the Light, on this Winter Solstice, in the O Antiphons, the ancient prayer-song of waiting and expectation, the fifth title given to the Christ (or Light, or Love, if you prefer) is Radiant Dawn.  Of the seven names that compose the antiphons, this one, based again on the words of the prophet Isaiah, resonates most with me:  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. (Isaiah 9:2)

Last year at this same time, as Covid was killing off thousands of people around the globe and vaccinations were not yet available, we were all living in deep darkness, indeed.  I wrote daily blogs about the presence of the Light and encouraged myself and others to “Light your candles quietly, such candles as you possess, wherever you are” (Fr. Alfred Delp, martyred by the Nazis).  Here we are, a solid year later, still in the midst of pandemic, of political unrest, of inequality, of doubts and fears that persist throughout the years.  Yet still, through the darkness, the Light does shine.  It happens every single day as the sun rises on us once more, offering the grace of new beginnings.  We have been given another day to shine, to be courageous enough to light our candles.

Who needs our light?  It could be the person behind us in the check-out line, the exhausted mother trying to live up to holiday expectations, the child hurt by that same mother’s impatience, an Uber driver, the friend saying goodbye to a beloved pet, the person facing a first Christmas without a loved one, the one with whom we live daily.  Or maybe it is us.  Light shines in any form of compassion.

“The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it” (John 1:5).  This is a promise, a reality, and a gift for all of us.  Together, may we reflect the Light across the world.

Prayer:  O Radiant Dawn, each day when the sun crests the horizon, you offer us another day of life.  Help us not to take that gift for granted but to celebrate it.  Show us how to shine our own lights, no matter how small or insignificant we may think they are, on a world dwelling in fear and sorrow.  Let our lights be beams of love that fall on those who sit in any kind of darkness, and may we each be open to receiving your Light.  May it be so.

Blessings to you ~ Rosemary       20rosepoet20@gmail.com

Photo credit Pixabay

O Antiphons ~ Key of David

December 20, 2021

O Key of David and scepter of Israel, what you open no one else can close again; what you close no one can open. O come to lead the captives from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Five days before the birth of the Light, in the O Antiphons, the ancient prayer-song of waiting and expectation, the fourth title given to the Christ (or Light, or Love, if you prefer) is Key of David, as described in Isaiah 22:22:  I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open. 

What do keys do?  They open doors.  And, they lock doors.  Keys are symbolic of power and ownership.  To have a key to something is to have the authority to access it.  To own a key enables us, both literally and figuratively, to let someone in or keep someone out.

In this season of longing, I acknowledge the feelings (captives) I have locked in my heart–former wounds, fresh hurts, old records, new disappointments– that might be preventing me from unlocking the door to Love and Light and to others, and I lift them like rising candle smoke. Some have languished in that dark prison a long time; others are just arriving. Keys are powerful. How we use them matters. On my own, I cannot turn the key to release them, but I can lift my desire for Grace to do so.

Prayer: O Key of David, the promise you carry is that you will unlock the doors that hold our captives in darkness, that you will set them free, and so set us free. We pray for all those who hold keys to power and privilege to turn toward your Light and hand you their keys. We pray for ourselves, as well, knowing those captives that need to be let out of the darkness and into your Light. O come, O come, and empower us to trust you with our keys. May it be so.

O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Blessings to you ~ Rosemary 20rosepoet20@gmail.com

Picture credit Pixabay

O Antiphons ~ Root of Jesse

December 19, 2021

O Root of Jesse, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings fall silent before you; nations bow down and worship you. O come to deliver us and do not delay.

In the O Antiphons, the ancient prayer-song of waiting and expectation, the third title given to the Christ (or Light, or Love, if you prefer) is Root of Jesse, as described by the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, in 11:1:  “And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root.”  Jesse was the father of King David, the greatest king in Jewish history.  The Light was prophesied to come out of this particular lineage of royalty, faithfulness, and humanity.

This morning, as I perused the headlines (something that I limit for my own soul’s well-being), I realized that for the second year in a row, we will not be attending Christmas Eve Worship.  The Omicron variant is in our state, along with the ongoing presence of Delta, and no mask or vaccine mandate is in force.  The service will be full of people and guests whose vaccination status I cannot insure.  Our daughter, who lives alone, will be traveling from Boston, and we cannot take a risk of exposing her and sending her home sick.  As a minister, missing the celebration of the birth of Christ, Love, and Light (again) is difficult.

So, the image of being rooted in someone bigger than me, someone more faithful than me, someone more loving than me, someone ever-present, touches me deeply this advent of looking and longing in a world where the tiniest of viruses, of beings, has taught us that we are not in control.  The promise is that from this root of Jesse a flower will blossom.  Roots grow in darkness, yet from the darkness comes great beauty.  I hold that promise to my heart with great anticipation.

Prayer:  In this long season of continuing darkness, pandemic, suspicion, division, fear, doubt, and anger, we call on you, Root of Jesse, to ground us in wisdom and in hope, in faithfulness and in love. Whatever our beliefs, whatever name we use for God, help us to hold fast to you and to give our loyalty to you.  Use us, we ask, to help make the flowering a part of our lives in a world that so desperately needs your presence and your grace.  May it be so.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave.

Blessings to you ~ Rosemary 20rosepoet20@gmail.com

Photo credit Pixabay

O Antiphons ~ Adonai

December 18, 2021

O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the law on Mount Sinai. O come and stretch out your mighty hand to redeem us.

In the O Antiphons, the ancient song of waiting and expectation, the second title given to the Christ (or Light, or Love, if you prefer) is Adonai, the Hebrew word for Lord.  “Lord” is not a title Americans are used to or even really appreciate because it sets someone higher than us, or apart from us, in this land of mythical equality.  We don’t want to be beholden to a lord. Yet its meaning here holds much relevance for us today because we are in dire need of “someone higher than us,” any of us, to redeem us.  Now.

Pandemic.  Inflation.  Division.  Anger.  Fear.  Tornado.  Fire.  Destruction.  Name it, and we are walking in the midst of it.  This winter season of waiting is a time for us to acknowledge our human need for redemption from all the noise and turmoil around us and within us that threatens to drown us, a need so great that no president or priest can save us.  We need THE Lord.

This antiphon is based on the story of Moses and the burning bush in the Old Testament.  If we listen closely, we notice that the Lord did not come down and lead the people out of slavery, but the Lord indeed knew who would.  Moses himself tried to squirm and shirk his way out of that calling even while the Lord was empowering Moses to do what needed to be done.  And so God’s people were set free because of love, the love of the Lord and Moses’ love of the Lord and the Lord’s people.

I wonder this Advent where the Lord wants me to go, who the Lord wants me to assist, how the Lord wants to use me in setting others free.  Yes, we need the mighty arm of Love to redeem us, and we are also invited to be willing vessels of that Love.

Prayer:  In this long season of continuing darkness, pandemic, suspicion, division, fear, doubt, and anger, we call on you, O Adonai, to claim us and protect us.  You have promised never to leave us alone, and you have called us to be your presence in this oft-broken world.  Just as you empowered Moses to heed your call, so give us the eyes to see and the courage to go into the dark places where your Light most needs to shine.  You are Love and love overcomes all fear (1 John 4:18). Grant us in this season of gift-giving the gift of love and then embolden us to practice it.

O Come, O Come, Thou Lord of might

who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height

in ancient times didst give the law,

in cloud, and majesty, and awe. 

Blessings to you ~ Rosemary    20rosepoet20@gmail.com 

O Antiphons ~ Wisdom

December 17, 2021

(Pixabay image)

O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You create the universe and hold all things together with strength and sweetness. O come to teach us the way of truth.

Many of us are familiar with the Advent hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, but not as many of us are familiar with the O Antiphons, on which this hymn from 1861 was based.  The O Antiphons originated in the Roman Catholic Church sometime between the 6th and 8th centuries as a prelude to Christmas Eve.  They are the containers of ancient praise, as relevant now as they were then.  Each of the seven antiphons (short refrains) that are used as names for the Christ (or Light, or Love, as you prefer) are sung on the nights between Dec. 17 and Dec. 23 at a service called Vespers.  They are matched with their relevant scripture verses and include the following names:   O Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Rising Sun, O King of the Nations, O Emmanuel. 

Today, the first antiphon is O Wisdom, taken from this scripture verse from the Old Testament of the Bible:  The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.   His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.  He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear. (Isaiah 11:2-3) 

Prayer:  In this long season of continuing darkness, pandemic, suspicion, division, fear, doubt, and anger, we seek Wisdom and the way of Truth.  O Wisdom, build in us a desire for you and open our hearts to receive you.  Quiet us enough to seek your counsel before we respond or act.  Help us to stay rooted in you instead of rooting ourselves in the many opinions of this world.  Inspire us to listen not only with our minds but even more so with our hearts.  Grant us in this season of gift-giving the gift of Wisdom and then embolden us to practice it. May it be so.

“Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, shall come to thee, O Israel.”

Blessings to you ~ Rosemary    20rosepoet20@gmail.com

The Waiting ~ A Poem of Advent

For all who wait in hope for the coming Light. Blessings, Rosemary

The Waiting

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Do not fear. I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

O, Isaiah, ancient prophet of doom, prophet of ancient hope,
your proclamations resound like cymbals
jarring this still and frozen December heart,
this frozen and still December world.
Like your own people, we are waiting
in this season of ancient hope, waiting
through each shortening hour
waiting while our divisions grow wider
than the separate waters
of the Red Sea.
We wait for your promise that the lion
will lie down with the lamb.
We wait for the winds of your words
to blow injustices away like chaff,
for the threshing sledge to make even
the high and mighty palaces of the
blind and powerful.
Even as sunlight fades into shadows
we wait in the darkness for your springs
of water to wash over the dry land
of poverty, for war to be
no more.
We wait for the fragrance of the cedar and myrtle,
the fruit of the olive, to inhabit
the deserts of our wilderness
where anger, fear, and hate take root.
We wait for the open rivers on the barest
of heights to pour down and bathe us,
to wash us clean, to make us new.
O, Isaiah, ancient prophet of doom,
prophet of ancient hope,
like your people we wait
in this ancient season of hope,
lifting our prayers,
lighting our simple candles–
the flames as old as God–
our single act of resistance against the night, our right hand
clasping your promise.

© Rosemary McMahan