A tranquilizing crisis
The children's Christmas Mass was packed. In past years, it exuded busyness: children putting on a pageant, proud parents and grandparents watching and music abounding.
Not so this year! What changed was a power outage that left the church in darkness, the organ without power and everyone without heat.
Candles, usually used for eucharistic adoration, were placed on the altar and pulpit, creating a delightful aura of stillness.
After Mass, parishioners remarked, "I really liked this year's Christmas celebration; it possessed a warm intimacy." Ironically, a chilling crisis turned into a warm, enjoyable moment despite no heat.
What is it about a candlelit moment that touches the heart?
There have been times when candlelight has been pressed into service due to a thunderstorm and subsequent neighborhood power outage. Suddenly, we find ourselves reverting to methods of survival our grandparents experienced, casting us into their pioneering days and its adventuresome mood.
In many homes, candlelit crises can dramatically change them for the better. Why? In normal times, family members tend to have their special corner to which they retreat; having only candlelight causes them to come out of their corners, thus heightening their sociability.
And too, sitting at a table with only candlelight invites us to concentrate more fully on another. Less powerful, glaring lights have the uncanny effect of increasing the power of intimacy.
Our parish power outage contained a valuable lesson: Too much light, at times, can overshadow our power of closeness.
More often than not we live in a rushed existence, filled with bright lights, noise and myriad distractions. This can lead us to being less connected with our inner life.
Being constantly on the go leaves no time to connect with self and enjoy peace and tranquility. To ensure that connection, every so often we need to be stopped and cast into an atmosphere that encourages stillness.
I have to wonder if this year's Christmas celebration was exceptional because it stopped us from the usual commotion with which we are immersed and cast us into a more intimate mood.
Was the lack of light, music and heat ultimately responsible for changing a hustle and bustle atmosphere into welcomed stillness in which children and parents gazed upon a candlelit altar and focused more than usual on its meaning at Christmas?
- FatherEugene Hemrick is a columnist for Catholic News Service