The Glimmering Light of Hope

The Glimmering Light of Hope

Dear Friends,

The tour guide, ten college students and I walk as quickly as we can from the parked bus, down the Spanish Steps, breathing heavily as we hurry under the black night sky along the glittering lights of the streets in Rome, Italy.

We race toward the Pantheon, desperate to get into the building before its closing time. We sprint through the doors, talking, laughing, not really paying attention to where we are, what is happening. Caught up in the rush of movement, the students laugh and call to one another.

Once inside, all of us fall into a hushed, surprised and sudden silence as we look up at the unimaginable, impossible, giant opening at the top of the structure of the temple.

At the cupola of the rotunda, there is an aperture—a round gaping hole known as an “oculus.” During daytime, it is the only source of light in the dome. That night, I lean my head back, feel the pressure in my neck, and watch the moonlit clouds float past the opening.

I listen as the tour guide explains how the oculus acts as a “compression ring” to distribute the pressure of the walls, keeping them from collapsing. She reminds us that Michelangelo described the temple as “angelic and not of human design.”

That experience in Rome? It took place five years ago today when I was teaching a “study abroad” course, but it comes to mind the moment I open this week’s prayer for Lent, part of the “Pray with Mercy During Lent” series Cranaleith is co-sponsoring with the other Mercy Retreat Centers of North and South Americas. The series invites us to pay attention to the pressures of our world: racism, immigration, women, nonviolence, earth—those walls that surround us. Then, each week, we are invited to look up for the presence of God. It’s a journey of prayer that leads to our trusting in the presence of the Spirit “who makes all things new.”

We are in, as you likely are aware, the season of Lent, the 40-day period that began on Ash Wednesday and will end Holy Saturday, March 30. As writer Sara Phillips describes, “Lent is the time that offers us an opportunity to come to terms with the human condition we may spend the rest of the year running from…. Lent is the time to open the doors of our hearts a little wider…in preparation for remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter.”

In the Pantheon, an oculus has kept the pressure of the dome’s walls from collapsing for almost 2000 years. This year, Cranaleith celebrates its 25th Anniversary for serving as a kind of opening, too, pointing to transformation and wholeness.

Pause from the rush. Come to this place, fall silent, and look up. See for yourself the glimmering light of hope.


In Mercy,

Dawn L. Hayward, Executive Director

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