TO BE AS LANTERNS
READ: Luke 8:16-18
“Jesus then said, ‘No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or to put it under the bed. No, the lamp is placed on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come into the room. For nothing is hidden but that it will be revealed, nothing secret but that it will be made known and brought into the light. So care how you listen. Anyone who has, will be given more. Anyone who has not, will be deprived even of what he thinks he has.'” – Luke 8:16-18
At Greyfriars’ Abbey, a lamp is always burning, twenty-fours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, year after year. This is an ancient Benedictine tradition that the lamp is always lit, even through the darkest hours of the night.
Jesus is described as the Light … that shines in the darkness. Again and again, Jesus draws on this metaphor, the Light that shines in the darkness. And throughout Christian history, spiritual writers have continued with that understanding. An ancient Christian monk in the thirteenth century once wrote, “… take away God and you are left with the empty Darkness…” And in our own modern day, science keeps confirming that ancient understanding …”it is the Light that brings the universe to life. Without Light, all would soon die away in the desperate cold of the darkness.”
Here at the Abbey, we have a friendly “bear” who welcomes us into our living quarters. We have named him somewhat irreverently yet affectionately, “Benedict“. Benedict the Bear is a two foot tall statue of a bear, a kindly bear, who welcomes us with his little shining lantern. You see, Benedict the Bear has a solar cell hidden in his fur. During the day, Benedict the Bear soaks up the power of the sunlight; then at night, that stored sunlight powers his faithful lantern so that we might feel welcomed in our coming home.
That bear is an apt model for the Benedictine approach to Christian witness. Each day we try to bring into our lives the Light of Christ. We intentionally and quite seriously place ourselves in the Light of God, the Light found in the Scriptures, the Light in remembering the life of Christ, the Light in our Beholding the Light in all God’s Creation and in all God’s creatures, the Light of the Holy Spirit as it soaks into our souls in contemplative prayer. And then – it is our hope and intent – we shine forth with that Holy Light in the times and places where the Darkness is heavy, shining forth with a quality of Spirit that is self-evidently Divine.
The other day, a man at a coffee shop took notice of my Benedictine pin that I always wear. He also noted the wooden cross that I always wear about my neck. For some reason, he felt the need and urge to encounter me with his unbelief. He said, rather abruptly with an edge of cynicism and a touch of disdain, “Are you one of those monks from the Abbey?” I answered, “No, not officially. I am a retired Protestant Pastor studying the Benedictine approach to Christian discipleship,” He paused to chew a moment on his lip before declaring in no uncertain terms, “I am not all that keen on Christians.” I answered, “That’s a pity. But sometimes Christians can be rather put-offing. I suppose it all depends how you define being a Christian.” He countered, “I don’t know. Christians seem to be against everything. You know – they think that gays are going to hell and women ought not have abortions.” I paused, “Sir, is that what you think Christians are all about?” He answered, “Well, that’s all I ever hear about, that and asking for money!” Our conversation went on … and after about an hour, I sense he may have come to a fuller understanding of what Christ and Christians were truly about.
I tell that story not to enter into a debate about those hot-button moral issues of our times, but to note that for this man – and I believe for so many others – these issues have become the living definition of what Christians are all about. So I ask … what is the Light that we are bringing into the Darkness? When they gaze at the Light our lives are casting into the world, what do they see? Do they see the grace of God? Do they see the mercy of God? Do they see the compassion of God? Do they see the just dealings of God? Do they see the peace of God? Do they see the Providence of God? Or do they see angry people caught up in their own moral and political zeal?
My wife said to me something the other evening that I will always cherish. As we were enjoying an evening at a local restaurant, I remarked to her, “Why do the servers at restaurants always seem to want to share with me their problems? It always seems as if they are just waiting for me to show up.” My wife then, who is a quiet soul who is shy about giving flattery, took my hand and said, “Listen to me. Maybe they see something in you that draws them to you. Just maybe, they see something of Christ’s love in you. You do have a certain something that they need in their lives, and they see it in you, even hear it in your voice. Now, don’t order French fries, order a salad.” I struggle to see that in myself … but still, I hope she speaks the truth about me.
The Christian disciple needs to find a daily way to “soak” up the Light that comes from heavenly places … so that the Christian disciple can then be about the work of filling the empty darkness with the Light of Christ, to shine forth with a Light that comes from heavenly places. The Christian disciple was once defined by St. Bonaventure as “… a lantern to fill the night with Christ…” To be a lantern of God … such a beautiful mission.
So, my Loved Ones, Shine Forth with the Light of God’s Love … so that the world might see more clearly what Christ is all about.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
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