The Light within the Darkness

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At this dark time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, we light candles to bless the darkness--Hanukkah candles, advent candles. This year we also hold candlelight vigils for Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner.

It has been an extraordinary, exhausting couple of weeks, from the moment we heard of the Grand Jury verdict in the Michael Brown shooting case. Only a week later, the World Food Programme announced that it had run out of funds to feed 1.7 million Syrian refugees. Right after the news, Sadananda and I sat down for our lunch, looking miserably at our simple meal of carrot-ginger soup and roasted turnips--homegrown vegetables. It was hard to eat when our sisters and brothers could not. But of course, there was more to come. Two days later we learned of the Grand Jury verdict in the choking death of Eric Garner.

It's rare that I lack joy and optimism--but at that moment l simply felt exhausted and overwhelmed by events in the world and in my adopted country. In my journal I wrote: "I must feel the stress to be an authentic force for transformation. Feed on the darkness and bring forth the light. Blessed are they that mourn."

By Friday night I was hitting a place of despair. " What would be good news?" asked Sadananda. I replied, "The World Food Prgramme announcing they are going to start feeding the Syrian refugees again." Minutes later I turned on the BBC World Service and my prayer was answered! It was perhaps the fastest answer to a prayer I ever received!

Hanukkah is the light that comes forth from desolation and devastation. The temple has been desecrated--now it is cleansed and the menorah is lighted anew. Light returns from darkness and loss. It is the warrior light kindled by people who stood up and fought for their rights. The menorah is placed in the window for all to see because--so the teaching goes--it reminds all oppressed people everywhere to stand up for their rights, for justice, for truth, for equality.

Advent candles are the light we kindle as we await the birth of a new reality. They are lights of hope amid darkness. Hope shone its rays into my heart when I read Bhagavad Gita with my students. "When righteousness grows weak, when unrighteousness prevails, I make myself a body." The Lord sets aside his divine state, to be born, suffer and die as a human among humans. It is in time of darkness that the Child is born who all the world awaits.

And who is that child? What is
the divine birth, the birth of hope announced by a new star? That divine child who shines light into darkness is us, all of us, when we awaken, when we stand up for our rights and the rights of others. The Prince of Peace is marching, protesting, facing riot police or security forces in cities around the world, holding a 'die-in' at Grand Central Station or London's Westfield Mall, shivering in the cold holding candles because 'black lives matter'. All lives matter. We all matter. Each of us has a part to play in the awakening for which we long. As long as my faculties remain and the internet exists, I will write this justice and peace blog, remembering the pen is more powerful than the sword.

As TS Eliot writes in Choruses from the Rock:

And we must extinguish the candle, put out the light and relight it;
Forever must quench, forever relight the flame.
Therefore we thank Thee for our little light, that is dappled with shadow.
We thank Thee who hast moved us to building, to finding, to forming at the ends of our fingers and beams of our eyes.
And when we have built an altar to the Invisible Light, we may set thereon the little lights for which our bodily vision is made.
And we thank Thee that darkness reminds us of light.

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Mitchell Vaughn | The Cavalier Daily



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    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Alakananda Ma published on December 10, 2014 12:40 AM.

    Don't shoot: reflections on guns, race and police was the previous entry in this blog.

    I Can't Breathe is the next entry in this blog.

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