[Editor’s note: Throughout Lent, Sandra McCracken will be sharing weekly writings, each of which is tied to a song from her new EP, Songs from the Valley, available at her website. Below you will find the third of these writings, to be read alongside her song, “Oh Gracious Light” which you can listen to here.]
I was on a retreat in Texas a few months ago and I woke before dawn. I noticed a sliver of morning light on a glass bottle on the table beside the window. The tiny curve caught my attention with its beauty. There was not a sound. The moment felt prayerful, like morning and night at the same time.
I watched the light expand from the rim of the glass like a crown of silver. I waited in the stillness. A few minutes later, another gentle spotlight appeared a few feet over on the canvas window seat cushion. This new patch was a dewy light. Next, on the leather pillow leaning on its side, the light there looked slick like a puddle of water, growing from faint to fullness.
The increase of light was expanding my spirit. I didn’t need words to study. It was a holy display, an invitation to peace. Soon, I saw the wooden windowsill ledges were illuminated. And on the wooden sloped arms of the recovered chairs, the paint brushed print of the fabric took shape again after a night’s rest.
After a time, the whole sky outside my window began to give up the darkness. I could see a thin stripe above the tree line. Was it a crack in the glass? Had I not seen it before? Maybe it was my contacts?
Squint. Strain. Eyes open wide. No, I see it now.
It’s a stripe, a line. It’s there. Is it a wire? I can only see in part. No, it is sure, it is definitely a wire. I guess I couldn’t see it because it matched the sky so black, but now the sky is lightening. Now there is contrast. Now there is vision.
Scarcity is not the final word. It is as fleeting as the shadows. It has been defeated. Sandra McCracken
But wait, is that another cluster of lines? Smaller ones? Smaller wires? One, two, three…yes, even four.
Four more lines appeared in the cloud-covered morning sky. It grew white like coffee with milk. Grey on grey, before the color blooms.
How much slow beauty do we see? How much does it reveal? How much does this attention to quiet beauty help us to see and trust that scarcity is not the binding rule?
Even the ups and downs of the weather pull us forward into the stutter of early spring. Sandra McCracken
Scarcity is not the final word. It is as fleeting as the shadows. It has been defeated.
As the sky is above the soil, so are God’s thoughts, his ways, his abundance over us. Peace to breathe. Light to see. Joy to resonate a new day dawning. We are two weeks into this season of Lent, two weeks closer to the feast. It feels a bit like a wilderness. Even the ups and downs of the weather pull us forward into the stutter of early spring.
Sometimes I think about the words of the creed that we say every Sunday afternoon, “God from God, light from light…”
What does it mean that God is light from light? How can light come from light? How is it that God was not made, not derivative, and entirely original? I cannot wrap my mind around this idea. But I can say the words.
The title of this song, “O Gracious Light,” and the opening line of the refrain is a Latin phrase, ‘Phos Heliron.’ It’s the first line of a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer used for a sunset prayer. ‘O Gracious Light;’ the juxtaposition of those two words stands out to me. The light is active and kind. Light is personified as an agent of God, like an angel, or like his arm extending to give us sight and direction where we are often in the dark about what is happening to us.
Invitation to prayer: I heard a friend say recently; good things grow in the light. When life feels like a wilderness, how do we walk in the light? Spend a moment with the light in the room where you are. Consider the changes. Pay attention to the silence and the movement. In the quiet, ask God to meet you in the dark places of your circumstances. Ask God to meet you in the shadow places of your heart. Invite him to show his light there.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” – Is 9:2
Click here to listen to “Oh Gracious Light” from Sandra’s new album, Songs From the Valley.