Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38
Become quiet and still. Open your heart to this moment, to this image, to this Scripture, to God. Take your time. What do you see? What do you feel? What do you sense is God’s invitation to you?
In the cool, dark, quiet of Chartres Cathedral, it seems natural, and almost easy, to respond to God’s invitation with a simple, accepting, “let it be.”
The cathedral, located in northern France, is considered to be the finest example of French Gothic architecture. It has the most complete collection of stained glass windows from the Middle Ages, with more than 150 surviving from the 13th century and several from the 12th century. No direct light enters the building – it is all filtered through stained glass. Entering the cathedral is like opening a door into another world. It is dark inside the cathedral, but the darkness glows with the soft light coming through the stained glass. Pilgrims move quietly around the labyrinth as the light shines through the various depictions of the stories of our faith.
The Life of Christ window, dating from the 12th century, is in the middle of the west wall directly under the rose window. The window depicting the Annunciation is in the bottom left corner of the center set of windows under the rose.
As pilgrims walk the labyrinth, the window depicting the Annunciation is visible from all places where the walker is facing west.
There in the labyrinth, moving without any rush or urgency, the light shining softly through the Annunciation and all the other stories of faith, it’s possible to feel a sense of real peace and openness and connection to God and to others. It’s possible to find a sense of presence, a sense of encounter with the Thou-ness of God, and to discover a remarkable ease with saying “Yes! Let it be with me according to your word!”
And then the labyrinth walk is over, and the pilgrim departs the labyrinth and walks west, to leave the cathedral, exiting right under the Annunciation window, back into the “real” world. The light outside is unfiltered, and so is the reality of the world. But the peace and connection found inside the cathedral, or with any other sacred experience – this, too, is part of the reality of the world. We often feel a sharp separation between life in our “real” worlds and those brief moments of deep, sacred connection. We might find it easier to say “Yes!” to God if we weren’t so frequently juggling the stressful demands of daily life.
What would it take to sustain peace and deep connection to God and others in the midst of regular living? How can we make space inside ourselves to be open to that peace and connection? How can we make time for listening, and for nurturing our own deep “Yes”?
It’s Christmas Eve now, and something in us wants to connect to the sacred, the eternal, the holy. Maybe your season has been busier and more demanding than you would have liked. Or maybe it’s been lonelier. Maybe even now you are feeling things that make it difficult to connect to God. Is it possible to take a few moments today or tonight, to breathe and to be? Could you sit by the light of the Christmas tree and perhaps read the story of the Annunciation one last time, and listen for God’s word in it for you? Could you remind yourself that “Yes” is not an emotion but a choice?
There are holy places and holy moments and most of the time we aren’t in charge of when or how they happen to us. All we can do is be grateful for those times when they do happen, when God feels as near to us as our own breath, as close to us as the beating of our own hearts. We can be grateful for those times when faith seems natural and even easy. And we can remember this – the light that shines through the windows of the Chartres Cathedral also shines everywhere. The Source of illumination is not our sacred structures or seasons or stories or songs. The Source is beyond all of that, and it shines whether we feel its sacredness or not. On this holy night, may we trust that the light shines in the darkness.
Holy One, help me to trust that your light shines in my life, no matter what. Help me say “Yes” to you in the midst of whatever is happening in my life.
Love is a place & through this place of love move (with brightness of peace) all places yes is a world & in this world of yes live (skillfully curled) all worlds -- e.e. cummings