How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
On the day before winter break in 11th grade, my religion teacher, Mrs. O’Neill, taught my class the reason why Christmas was on December 25th. She said that the date was based around the Roman festival of light, Saturnalia, which occurred on and around the winter solstice. She taught us that Christmas was set for the 25th because four days after the darkest day of the year, it was thought that a discerning person could notice the days becoming longer. Just four days removed from the 21st, when the absence of light is greatest, we could, if we chose to, detect the resurgence of light.
This had a special resonance coming from Mrs. O’Neill not only because she was one of the teachers I admired most, but because her husband had passed away one year before. Her most recent Christmas was distinctly associated with loss, yet she was standing in front of my class talking about the return of light and hope marked by the date of December 25th.
Perhaps Mrs. O’Neill was also teaching us a way to view the world. That in the midst of profound darkness, there is an almost imperceptible light, a light that is too subtle to distinguish unless we make the conscious choice to look for it. Perhaps Mrs. O’Neill was saying that we live in a world where darkness is pervasive, where acts of destruction are devastating and commonplace. Perhaps Mrs. O’Neill taught us that seeing the world this way is both obvious and easy, but it hinders our ability to see that the days are growing longer, to see the emergence of light.
I hope you have a merry Christmas, filled with light and love.
Health & Happiness,
-- Tim Driscoll ‘14