Thou, flood of light, poured into a manger!
Thou, hope and promise!
Tottering from the shadows to the sky.
Thou, eternal dream of the universe!
Thou, song of heaven’s blessing!
Sleep, sleep, O springtime of salvation!
Thy star lightens the horizon,
And burns away the darkness of ignorance.
By Thy coming redemption is enkindled
With love and light,
And the world recovers its existence.
Sœur Marie Keyrouz OSB, from her Cantiques de l’Orient, 1996.
English translation of Arabic lyrics
It was nearly a quarter of a century ago. The teenaged boy and his mother went to the newly restored Mission La Purisima near Lompoc, California, the full name of which is Mision La Purisima Concepcion de Maria Santisima. It was a beautiful Easter Sunday morning, warm and clear, and the nave was so full that it was standing room only by the time they arrived. Not long into the service, however, the young man, overdressed for the heat and suffering from the closeness of the centuries old, unventilated church, began to feel unwell. Though he was distressed at leaving in the midst of Holy Mass, he was afraid that he might become sick in the church itself, which was not an option. So he excused himself from his mother and stepped outside. Finding a bench in the shade near a small fountain in the gardens, he sat down to catch his breath and allow his stomach to settle. Not long afterward, a woman in a sky-blue nun’s habit joined him on the bench opposite. The young man thanked her, of course, for her concern for his well-being, and the two continued to talk for some time, with the young man feeling better as time passed. At one point, he saw his mother briefly leave the church and approach, checking on him. She returned to the Mass and her son continued to talk with the kind nun. Eventually taking his leave of the sister, he rejoined his mother for the rest of the Mass. On the way home, the young man mentioned the conversation with the nun, and how much he enjoyed it. His mother, surprised, noted that she didn’t see anyone talking with him on the other bench by the fountain, which fact surprised him indeed. For the woman was there, as plain as day, and they had a good conversation.
Yet to this day I can’t remember what we talked about for all that time….