This little light of mine has many lumens

It is the essence of truth that it is never excessive… We must not resort to the flame where only light is required. Victor Hugo 

In planning this column I was tempted to seek more powerful tropes or figurative language. I reread some of Shakespeare’s Hamlet where the main character seldom speaks in literal English. Then I realized, thanks in part to Hugo’s quote, that I should concentrate only on light when flame is not required.

I pondered my light, the little device I carry in my pocket. It is a light, but it is also a phone, a camera, a GPS, a web crawler, a home security monitor, a library, a music room, a theatre, a weather monitor, a shopping center, a remote car starter, a provider of Facetime, and many things I may still discover in the world of apps. 

When I think of the flashlight my father used, with the batteries, and what an improvement it was over the lantern, I am amazed at the self defence LED flashlight that emits 500 lumens. Amazing too is the halogen headlight which spots a deer for the driver going 100 kilometers an hour through the dark night.

This little light of mine, the literal device I describe above fits into my pocket, but lets me communicate with readers and publishers. It presents markets for my books and columns. It can guide me using global positioning satellites if I am lost, and it can summon help in an emergency.

But all that is nothing compared to the metaphorical “little light of mine” that we find in the spiritual hymn: This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. / Won't let Satan blow it out. / Let it shine til Jesus comes. / Let it shine over the whole wide world.

The origin of my little light is Christ, “Light of the world” (John 8:12). Jesus is our light and our salvation (Psalm 27:1). There is no darkness that is more powerful than This Light, even the beam that travels 186,000 mile per second.

And this light of Christ is accessible. In the iPhone light I carry in my pocket I can summon a listener to a message or to FaceTime. With the Light of Christ we have One who is continually revealing himself to us and we have access to his mercy, his love and his faithfulness.

“Before we invented civilization our ancestors lived mainly in the open out under the sky... Even today the most jaded city dweller can be unexpectedly moved upon encountering a clear night sky studded with thousands of twinkling stars. When it happens to me after all these years it still takes my breath away.” (Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot)

The light of the Resurrection which blasted the darkness of the tomb overshadows dark sin and death. In that light we see the Saints, our Guardian Angels and those who have gone before us to meet the Lord.

Since the coming of Christ and even before that light has been a symbol of God. The light in Peter’s prison reveals the angel of deliverance (Acts 12:7); in his conversion St Paul recognizes God’s presence in a blinding light; the Transfiguration shows God’s presence as light (Matthew 17:5); and the light of heaven shines on the shepherds and on us at the birth of Christ.

(569 words)

By Ken Rolheiser