1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good.
As we approach the Winter solstice, the nights draw in, the days are short and dark. Harvest is behind us and Winter just ahead. The trees stand like skeletons against the cloudy sky, as Nature hunkers down for the cold months to come.
Now as the old year comes to an end, we look forward to the new year, we light bonfires, beacons, candles, we keep vigil in readiness for a new beginning; in Church we light Advent candles for the one whose birth brought a new beginning to the world.
Back in May, things were very different for me. Bright, crisp early mornings, making way for warm sunny days, as I made my way across the North of Spain, through the Spring-coloured countryside along the pilgrim trail called the Camino de Santiago. It was day 26 - one of the longest legs of the journey, at 28½ kilometres – going from Villar de Mazarife to the city of Astorga. The walk was utterly beautiful but long and hard. The rough orangey track cut through the forest up and down slopes in an unbroken line for mile after mile.
One thing you soon realise when making this pilgrimage is that it forces you to confront your demons, even ones you didn't know you had. Before starting the Camino I had quit the voluntary work that meant so much to me, on a matter of principle. Now I was hot, exhausted, and racked with self-doubt. It was at this point that I arrived the the 'Oasis', a rest stop for pilgrims, with bottled drinks and fruit to eat in exchange for a donation. I sat down in the shade of a makeshift shelter, trying to muster the physical and mental strength to carry on. When I looked up, I saw that previous visitors had written on the wooden boards, and directly over my head was a simple depiction of a candle with the words “You are the light”. From my perspective, at that time, this was a message to me; I was guided to this spot; I was supposed to see it; that was all I needed. As I walked on I wondered: was it help from above or just a lucky chance? Then on my left I saw a concrete pillar some 30 feet high; beautifully drawn on the concrete, a hand reaching down from from the sky to grasp another hand reaching up, as if to save someone from drowning.
This Winter, when all around looks dark, remember this: You are the light of the world.