“Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
I was sent out onto the streets of Quebec City to look for images of the Sacred. The assignment was that, once I saw something, to take a photo with my smartphone and to email it to the retreat leaders. They would create a photo meditation of the images captured by those on this retreat in this beautiful, foreign city of French speakers. It was November so blooming things were out and snow, ice and a fierce wind were in. And so I bundled up and headed out with my eyes wide open.
Of course, there were the people…various ages and shapes of humanity doing the things humans do on any given day. Shopping, talking, reading, sweeping, making coffee, selling bakery, laughing, rushing, resting. I thought of snapping any number of photos of the interesting faces that breezed by. Certainly all were made in the image of the zone who breathed them into being.
I stopped for some time in front of a quirky sculpture by Salvadore Dali that stands in one of the city squares. Certainly this was an image of the creative Spirit as it worked through artist and metal, holding forth with a whimsy and movement that brought the cobblestones on which it stood to life. Creator and Creation were present here.
Turning from this dancing creature I was confronted by one of the churches that anchored the same square. Ah, I thought to myself, I should go inside and look for images of the Sacred there. Entering this probably centuries old church, there was the visceral sense not of holiness but of neglect, the smell of mold in the air. Paint chipped off the walls and there was a general messiness that made me uneasy. This seemed to be the opposite of an image of the Sacred. I left feeling sad.
Walking out the door and across the street I began window shopping feeling a bit of a panic at my inability to find something to photograph. And then I came upon a store window filled with lamps of all shapes and sizes. Glowing back at me from the window were colorful mosaic shades of brilliant colors. Each tiny piece of glass moved together to form something more than itself and the composite was lit from inside causing glowing illuminations that made my heart sing. I stepped back from the window and focused my camera on the window. This was my image of the Sacred. I sent it off to the retreat leaders and headed into one of the coffee shops for a treat. When in Quebec, right?
Later that evening those of us who had been on the scavenger hunt for images of the Sacred watched as our photos came alive on the screen underscored with lovely music. Some of the pictures were simple and literal while others were abstract, even confusing. When my image flashed on the screen I loved its colors and its glowing lights. For me, it was a lovely representation of how the Holy moves in these dark days of Advent.
And then I noticed that among the lights and shapes of the lamps was reflected the church which had seemed so lifeless to me. I wondered what to make of that and I still do. I think about it every now and then hoping that the church was more vital than my impression of it. All I know is that on that particular November day in a city where I had difficulty making myself understood in language, I saw beauty and light and a reflection. The visual memory can still move me to experience the Sacred. This dance of light and dark plays itself in us in countless ways and we are wise to open ourselves to it. Even if it takes a long time to understand its meaning.