Every year, as the hours of day shorten and the nights draw in, we change the clocks. In the Autumn, we move them back one hour. We can’t increase the hours of daylight, so we simply attempt to manage the dark.
The Christian church has two tried and tested ways to ward back the darkness and offer us light in this season of the year, in the form of All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
If we feel ourselves to be stumbling around in spiritual darkness, All Saints Day is here to encourage and inspire. The Saints are just like you and I, with every possible personality and foible, yet they shine as examples of how to live with love, service, sacrifice and joy. I particularly love the saints who persevere through gritted teeth – its strangely encouraging!
If we are bereaved and living with grief and loss, if we miss loved ones who died some time ago, All Souls Day gives the opportunity to celebrate lives shared here on earth, and in eternity. Those we have loved shine as lights in our lives. Since the death of my dear Mum just over a year ago, I’ve come to understand more about how the influence of loved ones continues, in memory, in lessons, skills and habits passed on, in shared interests and many other ways. At a recent Memorial Service, I shared a poem about how the light of a star shines long after it is extinguished:
Were a star quenched on high, for ages would its light,
Still travelling downwards from the sky shine on our mortal night.
So, when a good man dies, for years beyond our ken
the light he leaves behind him shines upon the paths of men. (Anon)
The Christian church should also offer new ways to ward off the darkness, so I’m really pleased that Luxmuralis returned last week with ‘Poppies’, a beautiful and immersive light show within the cathedral. We welcomed thousands of people, many for the first time, for a journey through remembrance and gratitude for those who gave everything for the freedoms we enjoy.
While humanity is capable of incalculable wickedness, we are also capable of such goodness and creativity around putting things right. I’m encouraged by the young ecologist from Bristol, who, concerned about the decline in the population of fireflies, due to loss of their natural habitats and too much artificial light disrupting mating, began to breed the little beetles in his flat during lock-down. He has been joined by other enthusiasts and by wildlife groups and now fireflies (also known as glow worms) are being releasing into the wild .
We were urged at our baptism to shine like lights in the world. Let’s be like those little fireflies, offering the light of hope and joy to others.
With so much pain and darkness in the world please continue to pray for a just resolution to conflicts throughout the world, particularly at this time in the Holy Land and in Ukraine.
I’ll close with an ancient prayer by St. Columbanus, (c543 – 615) asking for Gods light:
Lord, grant me, I pray,
in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son,
that love which knows no fall,
so that my lamp
may feel his kindling touch
and know no quenching;
burning for me
and giving light for others.
Please take care of yourself and others.
With blessings and best wishes,
The Very Revd Catherine Ogle
Dean of Winchester