Candlelight giving just enough light for our next step. (December 2019)

Susan's Thursday morning note December 12, 2019
Candlelight giving just enough light for our next step.  

Good morning!  Complete stillness.  Coffee steaming.  My angel of dawn peers through the curtains with the moon shining brightly above her.  The full moon hanging longer than usual not wanting to give in to the struggle with dawn trying to take over his domain.  Outside my window I see my first glimpse of today’s gift of life.  My angel of dawn is again holding a small Christmas candle.  Almost out.  The flame barely flickers.  She slowly hands her gift of light to me.  She is singing lightly.  I strain to hear her words.  The same words I heard in a book I reread this week.  “Keep thou my feet, I do not ask to see The distant scene – one step enough for me…”  Beautiful voice singing these words as she hands me her small candle.

This week I read a Christmas story written by Elizabeth Yates, On That Night.  This short story has stayed in my mind with it’s gift of hope all week.  Each chapter holds the story of a different character ranging from young little girl to busy mother to widow to disillusioned man to older blind man attending the candlelight service.  Each scenario giving us the thoughts of the character in front of a quiet, candlelit church; each standing alone for a few moments in front of an old wooden nativity scene.  We get to see the thoughts of each.  Where they are at their moment of kneeling.  As each leave the scene of the church they walk into a black night (as dark as this morning is as I type).  No moon.  No stars.  No light from the heavens or street.  Each are visible walking into the darkness because they still each have a small stub of their candle flickering it’s last flames.  Each carefully stepping as they cup their hands around the flame, giving a few more moments of light to their particular paths.  Each have enough light to barely show them the next step to take.  Here are some of the words I underlined at each walk alone…words as each step into the darkness with their heavy thoughts.  Each character has someone enter the scene of their walk home who gives his candlelight and his encouragement that the light from the candle is enough.  Enough to give them light for their next step.  Then their next step.  This character we find later is an angel.  An angel with candlelight showing we do not need to see beyond our next step.  We are given enough light to know where to take the next step, but we must realize that only knowing the next step is enough.

“…Those who carried their candles toward the door and into the night endeavored to keep them alight as long as possible.  “…Keep thou my feet, I do not ask to see The distant scene – one step enough for me.” (John Newman 1833)  That was how it would have to be: as one step was take the next would be revealed, and then the next…and then the next.  Darkness would yield to the light and the way would become clear

Beyond the circle of light, the night was dark, impenetrable, kind.  Drawing her hand back she looked at the candle, trying to estimate its length of burning.  Now, all that mattered to her was to keep it alight until it lived its length, until it had served the purpose for which it was intended…she discovered there was a great deal she wanted to think about: things made clear by the light of the candle yet things she had always known.

…”Life looks very long, and bleak, and dark.”  “Where the candle glows?”  “No.  Light is there, but it is so small.”  “But it is enough.”  “For one step, of course.”  She could agree with him about something so obvious.  “How many more do you ever have to take at one time?”  “…No more.”  “Tonight at the manger I had nothing to give but an empty heart.”  “And you gave it that it might be filled.”  “Yes.”  “Only as I follow the little lead will the way open for the next to appear…”  “Her eyes had not left the candle flame since the wick had been relit for her.  It had burned down almost to its paper collar, but it would last as long as she required it.  For some time she had realized that she was walking alone, but she did not feel lonely.  Something had happened to her on this starlit, candlelit night to unlock her heart and set her free.”   

…”The coin of life had been his for a long time and he knew one side of it well.  Soon it would be time for turning and he would be able to see what the other side held.  He had learned to check his impatience, for the turning could not be hastened.  There was only one way to advance, the way of the last hymn they had sung at the Candlelight Service, a step, and another, and another.  That was the way he was walking now, though he carried no candle to part the darkness.  It would take more than a candle to do that for him.  “…one step enough for me.” He hummed the tune as he went along.  Such a simple thing it was to do, quite as simple as bending the knees in obeisance to that little figure in the manger…”

One step.  One small candle.  Light enough to take us to the next step.  Then the next.  Below are some quotes and verses I love on this same idea.  Light enough.  Light enough for my next step.  Not to see the entire scene, but the promise of enough light for my next step.

“As a rope is to a mountaineer,
As a candle’s flame is to the darkest of caves,

As a current is to a stream,

As a drizzle is to a desert,
As shelter is to the nomad,
As food is to the hungry,
As an oasis is to a weary traveler,
As freedom is to a prisoner,
As faith is to a theist,
Hope is to man.”  Chirag Tusiani (India)

These are life’s treasurings:  The sudden sun through rain; Stars on a frosty night;
Grass rippling o’er the plain; Tempest grown still; Hearth-fires when long roads end;
Candle-light in a quiet room; And the still silence of a friend.”  Dame Mary Gilmore (Australian poet 1865-1962)

‘’Hope is a flicker, a candle flame kept burning by the simple act of breathing.”  Joan Clark

It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”  Aristotle Onassis

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”  Desmond Tutu (South American leader)

Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
    Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home -
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene – one step enough for me.
John Henry Newman, 1833, written during an illness at sea

Psalm 143:8  Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.

“…Keep thou my feet, I do not ask to see The distant scene – one step enough for me.”   I no longer see my angel.  She gave me enough light to begin this day.  This moment of my life.  This gift called life.  Tonight we will have the chance to carve into stone words of moments gone today.  Will there be words worthy of chiseling?  Our sand timers continue to run.  Not yet finding their last falling sands.  We are not yet at the end of our timers…they continue to flow today.  Can we stop the time for a few moments as it travels by?  Stop and see what is beautiful?  Even if we can only find light enough from our candles for our next step will we accept that that is enough.  Enough.  Enough to see that life holds beauty?  That there is hope.  That the squirrels are in their nests.  That the trees are still standing and giving strength?   The leaves are against the fence.  My doves will awaken.  Life.  Beautiful life.  Eyes.  Quiet.  Nativity.  Manger.  Baby.  All our gift.  One step.  One step into the light our small candle flame gives us.  Enough to look ahead and enough to look to the heavens.   Enough light to give us strength to also turn our coins to enter heaven when that is our next step.  The promise of a peace that no one will understand is given to us as we silently look up.  Susan

Latin for this week:
Tace – candle.  Be silent.  Keep it dark.
videte per candelae – see my way by candlelight
illustratum via – illuminated path
lucerna – candle