Friday, September 11, 2015

By Candlelight

My lover speaks and says to me, 
"Arise, my friend, my beautiful one, and come!"    Song of Songs

We don't have to use candles. Even if the power goes off, there are flashlights and other battery operated options for us. Candles, you'd think, would be obsolete. So why do we use them?

I had been invited to attend the ordination of my friend, Mary Ann. I was looking forward to meeting her in person for the first time and seeing her mentor, whom I had known for many years. I knew this would be a small gathering. In all, we were six - me, Mary Ann, the two priests who ordained her, and two other priests. I felt incredibly honored to be invited to witness this special moment in my friend's life.

The chapel was in a tiny room in the basement of a house. I was instructed to take off my shoes before I entered this dim, candle lit space, and shown to my chair next to my friend. I sat down and she reached over and took my hand. In the quiet, we touched for the first time.

Candles are for special times and sacred spaces. They soften the edges and allow us to see each other gently. We become quiet. Candlelight encourages us to listen and to speak only what needs to be spoken.

Prayers, readings, and vows.

I listened. In a tradition that is ancient yet, somehow felt fresh like a walk just after sunrise, my friend spoke her promise to serve others. There were more words, of course, but what I remember most was all about love and freedom and being there to serve, not to judge or tell anyone what to do or what to believe.

In the quiet of a sacred space, in the dim light of the candles, it is somehow easier to see myself and understand my own sharp edges. This space, perhaps because of the people inhabiting it, did not hold judgement or criticism, only support, generosity, and love, even (or maybe especially) towards our own failings. It is hard to express what I felt during this time, the closest would be that I felt utterly and completely and beautifully human.

May we be granted peace.