In Genesis 33 we read the account of Jacob reconciling with Esau. If you remember, the brothers had had a major falling out due to a sold birthright (sold/stolen….potato/patahto) and blessing of the patriarch gone awry. Now after many years they would face one another again. The whole cohort was on the move—a pilgrimage let’s say, a procession if you will. Jacob put the women and children smack in front. Now, I am no biblical scholar, but in practical terms, that just doesn’t seem to be the most efficient way to travel. I bet that was one slow moving caravan. If they were anything like my children there were probably lots of stops for snacks and fighting over who got what seat on the camel. Women traveling with little children are not known for their agility, decorum, or timeliness. They get there when they get there. “So, help me don’t make me pull this caravan over. Because I will. I will pull this whole thing over if I hear one more word about someone not sharing the raisins.” (They probably had raisins for a roadtrip snack, right? I will imagine they did.)
Today was the Feast of the Presentation or the Purification of Mary or The Ascent of the Lord to His Temple, depending on your tradition. It all comes to the same thing though. Infant Jesus being taken to the temple after the 40 days of his mother’s ritual purification. (Just to be clear, Mary was always Most Pure. We are talking about completion of ritual purity, not moral purity.)
This is the official end of the Season of the Epiphany (for Maronites) and end of Christmastide (for the Roman Rite). On this day Candles are blessed and we process (I love a good procession) proclaiming that Christ is in his temple and with Simeon that our eyes have seen the salvation of the Lord.
We got the blessed candles and followed the procession out the door with the schola chanting beautifully. My little Cyril, just six years old held his candle so carefully, gently shuffling along so as not to have his flame go out in the winter air. His opposite hand made a little shield against the elements. He was so cute. He was so careful. He was so…slow. The procession was getting away from us. We were so far behind. Yet, he kept moving. He kept his flame alive. In order for me to process with him, I had to walk really slowly, too. Sometimes we used my hand has a shield too. For a small bit, I took the flame so he could shake out his little hands. But, he took his light back and made it the whole way.
Some people walked back to the end to ask him to relight their candles. They had kept up in the processional, but in the process had lost their light. So, he happily used his little candle to relight theirs.
The sadness of the swamp has been seeping its way in lately. I could not ”power of positive thinking” my way out of it. Friends have been praying for me. I was asking the Lord for strength. I just could not fight my way out of the darkness.
I felt disappointed in myself. Here I was facing another birthday and still in the fight to keep my head above water, to get ahead, to unf*ck my life, as they say. Every day, I try. I put one foot in front of the other. And every night I feel things unchanged. I am still in the same place. If I made progress at all it was at a snail’s pace.
As much as I have felt on the brink, though, the truth is, I am not overcome.
“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
Walking today with Cyril, at the very back of the procession, I felt a little well of supernatural joy. He had zero worry about being “behind.” He had no cares at all. He was on the right path. He was moving right along. He was following the Crucifix. His only concern was that his light didn’t go out.
And he did the whole little pilgrimage and he kept his candle lit.
Can I have just a little bit of that childlike spirit? That inner knowing that says, “I will get there when I get there. And when I get there I will still be carrying the light.”
The world, my flesh, and the devil all want to put out my light. They want me to get weary of carrying it, to despair of the progress I cannot see, or to let my light go out for the sake of keeping up with others.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter when I get there. (Where is “there” anyway?) What matters is that Christ’s Light is being faithfully carried by his little daughter.
Go slowly with your light. Life is not a race. It’s a procession to heaven. You have to get there with your light. That’s literally the requirement. The timetable is not important. Heaven is outside time anyway.