As a child, I remember going to Sligo with my parents on Christmas Eve. We’d go in the afternoon, spend a few hours in Sligo and call to Cloonamahon (then a Passionist Monastery near Collooney) or maybe to the Friary or Cathedral in Sligo and go to Confessions. We’d have a bite to eat as well and I remember these days as being very special.
On our way home, my mother (God rest her) would comment on the candles in the windows of houses. They weren’t electric nor were they “bridges” but single candles burning in the windows of houses. The darkness of the night made them all the more present and my mother would tell us these candles were put there to pave the way for the welcoming of Jesus. Santa Claus was everything to us, as children, but the candles weren’t for him – they were for the Holy Family and meant to guide their way to the Bethlehem Stable. She’d talk about candles in her own home in Cloonloo and the memories she had of them. The candles burned through the night and just for two nights during Christmas; Christmas Eve and the “twelfth night”. On both occasions, people on a journey it seems, needed help to trace their path. People were more than willing to help them. It’s a good memory.
Nowadays candles burn in the windows throughout Christmas and maybe even longer. The wick and wax are replaced by electric “Candle Arches” or LED tee lights. The idea is there but it’s not exactly the same. There’s something about the candle – burning itself away to give light where otherwise there would only be darkness. There’s something too about just lighting on Christmas Eve and the Twelfth Night. Something linking journey with our homes and our homes with people on journey.
We’re at the “twelfth night” now – tomorrow Christmas comes to an end. Somehow we seem to miss this point year after year that, though the Season ends, its purpose remains. The birth of a child marks the end of a pregnancy and months of waiting and hoping that all will be well. It’s not an end though for the life of the child becomes the focus, and the child becoming a boy or girl and in time, man or woman, is the full story. We’d never imagine leaving the baby a baby – even if we wanted to, we couldn’t for life brings with it growth.
So too, the Spiritual Life. We move away from the crib tonight but we journey into the Ministry of Jesus and find again, hear again, his Call to be better people because He lives.