Back in 2013 I began a blog series with the same name as the title that centred around a candle of hope and prayer during dark times of despair. The candle became my faithful prayer companion while my dear brother-in-law fought leukaemia, and my father suffered three strokes – parallel events that were emotionally draining to the entire family on two continents. RH and Daddy have since passed away, but it still takes a candle to centre me before, during, and after prayer, to find my way during my stormy darkness.
Christmas 2016 I was in deep mourning and was not in a position to even wish anyone a Merry Christmas. Christmas 2017 I was knocking on the doors of the psychiatric clinic, in the midst of the deepest emotional crisis and on the verge of many dark things that scare me even today. After a year of struggling and clawing my way back up, I had great hopes for this year, only to be confronted with another challenge, whose dimensions I haven’t even begun to comprehend.
Christmas often focuses on the Christ Child and the holy birth. But let’s face it, Christmas is the true Mother’s Day – because this was the beginning of Mary’s life of sacrifice and suffering, of putting her child’s needs ahead of her own, and being as strong as she could be to keep the family together through out the storms.
My grandmother, and most Filipino Catholics of her generation, was very strict about praying the Angelus. Everyone was expected to gather at the foot of the steps and pray together at 18:00 sharp, no excuses. My cousins had it even worse, and would be beaten if they arrived late for the Angelus. To this day, in many department stores in the Philippines the Angelus will be played at 12:00 noon and 18:00 sharp, and everything comes to a standstill for three minutes.
It took me almost 35 years to appreciate this powerful gathering for prayer, resenting it most of my youth. After my grandmother passed away, Daddy took over and was just as strict about it, as well as praying the rosary. But when I left the Philippines and all the traditional trappings of a Christ-centred culture, I experienced a deep void. Living in India and Thailand where religion and faith play such a huge role in daily life, I learned to compensate the loss of family prayer with personal meditation and prayer time, and somehow managed. But living in a godless and materialistic city like Berlin, the struggle begins all over again.
I turn, on this Christmas Eve, to the Angelus, to seek strength as a mother for the sufferings and travails of a child. May I be granted the grace to lead her out of the dark and back into the light. All it takes is a candle.