In the territory of human experience beyond words, just a few symbols are needed. One is the lighting of a candle. It is such a simple symbol. But universally powerfully.
I’ve participated in two events in Watertown recently for those who are grieving or sad during the holiday season. One was the “Blue Christmas” service at my church, and the other was the Candlelighting Gathering at Mt. Auburn Cemetery. Both gatherings were broadly ecumenical. Both included lots of lovely music and words. Really thoughtful choices were made about every aspect of both gatherings.
But in the end, it was all about the candles. As people came forward and lit a candle in memory of their beloved, a beautiful halo of light grew near an altar. Everyone there was united by their need to light a candle, by the ritual of doing it, and by the apophatic mystery of their own capacity to go on after the end of a dream. As a speaker at both events, I felt almost as if my words were in the way. I know they weren’t really — someone had to say something — but anything i could offer would be simply a frame within which people could *do* their hope, by walking forward and lighting a candle.
To all who are grieving at this time of year: peace and healing of heart to you. To those who are watching and waiting in the dark by the light of a candle: may the silence be like a blanket around your soul and the warmth of the candle a sign that spring will come.