Hope in the Darkness

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Light_FionaI walked out of the hot sunshine into the cool shade of the church. The walls were blackened from centuries of dirt and pollution building up and the door I pushed through was as thick as my hand. It swung heavily shut behind me and I took a moment to let my eyes adjust to the murky darkness inside.

The air was heavy with incense, filling my nose and lungs. I touched my fingers onto the water next to the door and wandered softly down the side aisle, running my hands along the cold damp stone walls.

As I stepped through the archway into the small side chapel the heat hit me like a wall. Hundreds of tall thin candles filled the altar, their heat warming even this most insistently cool space. Their warm light lit up the curved roof and the stone statue above, patiently watching over the pilgrims kneeling below.

I wasn’t raised in a church tradition that lights candles. There was a suspicion of even this, as if it was a form of pagan magic, an attempt to get your prayer to the front of the queue, the top of the pile in God’s inbox.

It all changed when I lost someone very dear to me. This most ascetic of women was suddenly slipping off the street into every church she passed, searching almost desperately through the aisles for the candles, dropping my coin too-loud into the collection tin, adding my small light to those already dancing in their stand before the altar.

In the moment it was hardest to find the words to pray, I needed this symbol to guide my thoughts and calm my soul. When my heart was ready to break from the pain of loss, this little candle was the tangible reminder that my wordless cries were heard before the throne, that the One who Comforts remembered me, was with me in my struggle.

So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light…”
– Mumford and Sons

I lit small candles in the vast dusk of each ancient church I passed and the thought of them, a glowing line behind me marking my path, gave me hope that I’d walk out into the daylight again.

The pain of that loss has eased over the past year but I still light candles. And this afternoon, hit by the wall of light and heat in that little chapel, I was struck by the power of our prayers together, our standing alongside one another in our struggles – a hundred cries heard, a thousand intercessions reaching the ears of Creator God. One little tealight makes such a small dint in the darkness, but a hundred burning tapers? They chase back the night and remind us what the day looks like when we most need to remember.

And so I walk forward, drop my coin in the offering, and light my candle alongside the others, knowing that sorrow lasts for a night – sometimes a long dark night – but there’s someone standing with me in the darkness who will wait with me until joy dawns with the morning.
_________________

Image credit: Hitchster

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Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen
Fiona lives in London with her Danish husband and her two young children. She is determinedly seeking the sacred in the ordinary, learning to see that even the most mundane moments of her day can be spiritual if she wakes up to the Divine in those places. She is in training to become a Spiritual Director, and baking is her favourite spiritual practice. You can follow her through her blog at fionalynne.com.
Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen
Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen

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