"Sharing the Light"
By Fr. Jim Swarthout
Director of Clergy and Alumni Relations
Rosecrance Behavior Health
Over the past few weeks, we have seen our brother and sister firefighters and first responders fall amidst tragedies. The California historic blaze and a suicide of a young firefighter. These instances of loss have occurred with I have been traveling and presenting at many of our facilities a "Sober Holidays" presentation to our clients and alumni. A gift was presented to me on one night to quickly participate in a remembrance ceremony of those lost to addiction and mental health issues. During the ceremony, a person representing a lost family member was invited to share a story of their loved one - then came forward and lit a votive candle, placing it around a large pillar candle in the center of the table.
Each time I observed a person lighting their candle I was reminded of the wisdom that a single candle can light a thousand other candles, and yet doing so never diminishes its own light. While it was not necessarily a new lesson for me, it was good to be reminded of it, especially as we approach the darkest day of the year. It is good to remember that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness, whatever form that darkness may take.
Candles are an essential part of two religious traditions that are both happening right now.
For Jews, the candles of the menorah recall the miracle that occurred when one day's supply of oil lasted eight days during the purification and rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem over two thousand years ago. For Christians, the candles symbolize the light of Christ that came into the world to overcome the powers of darkness. Followers of both faiths commit to not let the light go out, to keep the miracles of light and love burning brightly, sharing it with others whenever possible.
The "Shamash" is the candle that lights the other candles of the menorah. During this remembrance ceremony, tears of loss and pain, as well as tears of laughter and simple expressions of gratitude and kindness were shared. We had all become together a "SHAMASH" of light for each other.
What opportunities will you have today, this week, this holiday season, to be a Shamash? And remember, as you go around being a Shamash to others, your own light will never diminish - in fact, you may even find your inner light burning brighter than ever before!