“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing…” Is. 9:1-2
Just before Christmas we experience the “darkest night” of the year – December 21 has the least daylight of any day in the year and the longest night. Every day that follows gets increasingly brighter. The readings for the Mass During the Night capture the essence of movement from darkness into light, out of slavery and desolation into joy and hope.
Many of us come to Christmas Day with the same brokenness in our families, the same weakness in ourselves in need of healing, the same areas of unfreedom in prayer. In past years I would show up at Christmas Mass and feel like a sham: How can I celebrate the light when I still feel like I am in the darkness?
While on silent retreat a few years ago, a dear Jesuit friend offered me what has become a very helpful image. After I had shared what I was struggling with during confession, he said “Can you imagine yourself taking this and offering it at the altar during Mass? Visualize yourself carrying it and laying it as the gifts are brought forward.”
This simple exercise has become a regular habit for me. Each week when I go to Mass, I imagine even the most painful parts of who I am and the things I struggle with the most being offered as gifts. Can I imagine that my entire being (with all its failings and shortcomings) is as sacred as the bread and wine being offered? The words of the great Persian mystic Hafiz describe what making this offering feels like for me.
Each Soul Completes Me
Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky
"My name is not complete without yours."
How could a human's worth ever be such?
And God knowing all our thoughts — and all our
thoughts are innocent steps on the path —
then addressed my
a sublime truth to the world,
"I am made whole by your life. Each soul,
each soul completes
What happens when I imagine offering my whole self today at Mass? Does imagining God saying to me: “I am made whole by your life” evoke any emotions or movements in me?