"Words have a magical power. They can bring either the greatest happiness or deepest despair; they can transfer knowledge from teacher to student; words enable the orator to sway his audience and dictate its decisions. Words are capable of arousing the strongest emotions and prompting all men's actions."
“As long as Hanukkah is studied and remembered, Jews will not surrender to the night. The proper response, as Hanukkah teaches, is not to curse the darkness but to light a candle.”
Irving Greenberg, Modern Orthodox Rabbi, Jewish-American
In this second week of December, as the light of our days grows ever shorter and nights stretch longer before us, may we bring our hearts in prayer to the Source of all light. May we seek with them the miracle of the Light in our own darkness. May we find in that Light the strength and courage to live as a candle in the deep darknesses of the world. Amen.
Creator of all Life: One-by-one every family we know breathes whispers in clandestine tones….
It happened to us… to our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, to a sister and her husband, brother and sister-in-law, to our best friends….
Four times in a row
before the baby came
once, before We even knew…
over six years
and then children
healthy and perfect.
To our relief, the dare-not-breathed horrors of never at all hang palpably between the words of but a scant few.
We just keep breathing
in and out
in the darkness of the deep void that has consumed us.
Breath is the life you give.
You’ve been there all along…
Breathing for us…
when we could not remember to do it for ourselves, holding us from the beginning, as we are holding each other, now, in invisible bonds.
We won’t feel this way
Everything that is, you created out of the deep darkness of the void.
You do no less for we who you created good:
Call us out of our shapeless places of endless darkness…
Help us find new form and shape for our living
in this void that has stolen the shape from our lives.
Bring light to our darkness, O Creator of all.
Call us out of the water of our tears, bring us to dry land.
Carry us from this shapeless time, into new fruitfulness for our living.
Assure in our darkest nights…
that dawn and its daylight will always follow.
When the water of our tears do overcome, console that they team with the potential for new life.
Bring forth from us new life for the living of our days.
Lift us gently, compassionate Creator. Take us softly in your arms and breathe tenderly into each of us your breath of life. Amen.
The prayer above was written to conclude the 2009 Annual Candlelight Memorial Service in memory of children dead to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, being born still or who died within a few days of their birth. I was privileged this year to be the organizer and to once again light candles and speak publicly the names of my own Dear Little Ones, Alice, Claire and Elizabeth. They continue, by God’s good grace, to bless me in so many amazing ways.
Let us seek, this week in prayer, that which is most unique within us; may we find there the character and creativity which are ours alone so that our vision of our lives may lead us to living the deep and particular work of beauty which is ours alone to give the world.Amen.
The image above is, of course, of Seurat's famous "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grand Jette," which resides at the incredible Art Institute of Chicago. I remember studying this painting as a child in school and then taking a trip to the museum to see it. It’s size, the colors which seem alive, the layers of experience and meaning, the feelings of awe…. I still get chills.