The Rev. Becky Zartman
The Golden Hour is the time right after sunrise, or just before sunset. The light from the sun refracts in the atmosphere, casting a warm, golden hue on the earth. The light is literally golden; because of the angle of the sun, only the warm yellow spectrum rays are visible. And the light is diffuse, everywhere; because of the angle, the light has to refract through more of the atmosphere than it does during any other time of day. What we experience is a warm glow that transforms everything we see. The paradox is that nothing has actually changed. Everything is as it was only a few minutes ago, and yet, our experience of the world differs radically. During the Golden Hour, the ordinary becomes breathtaking, the plain becomes beautiful, the mundane, heavenly.
Each year, on the evening before the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox, we huddle together in the darkness and kindle a new flame. We proclaim this flame to be the light of Christ, a symbol of Christ overcoming sin and death, a symbol of the hope that burns within us. This golden light of hope transforms the world around us, because when we see with the light of Christ, we are invited to see the Real, the sacred underpinning of the universe, not just how the world seems to be, but the world as it truly is: God’s, and God’s alone.
When we see by the light of Christ, everything that is close to us, the manifestly everyday experience of living, things as simple and as vital as light and water and food and shelter and community – everything – is transformed into a vehicle of grace. These ordinary, existential, elemental pieces of life become imbued with the golden hue of love. The ordinary becomes sacred, even sacrament; the very stuff that sustains life is found to be nothing other than outward signs of inward grace, grace upon grace, the grace of God’s presence within us. These signs and sacraments are a reminder that God is not far, but very, very near, as close as breath, as close as the warmth that kisses our skin, as close as the spark in our eyes.
A life lived in the light of Jesus is a life lived in the Golden Hour. When we live a life of faith, present to the presence of God, we begin to see the world from a new angle, with a new vastness, in a new light. Our world becomes illuminated by the light of Christ, and we are able to bask in the warm glow of God’s love, to see the everyday for what it is: a gift from God. A gift that God called good.
But there’s more to the light of Christ than living suffused with beauty in the Golden Hour. We are called to more than just basking in the glow of the light of Christ; we are called to bring that light to those around us. If we keep this good news to ourselves, we hide our light under a bushel basket; we walk through life with the very meaning of our life, our own interior light, hidden from the world. When we keep the light to ourselves, we walk through life as though we’ve got black-out curtains on our soul. Light can’t get out, but light also can’t get in. When we lift the curtains, when we throw open the windows, we let the light from light, that gracious light, the light of Christ shine through us. When we let the light in, when we let the light out, we ourselves are changed. And so is the world. We become another reflection, another refraction of light in the Golden Hour, helping others to see the world and those in it as they truly are: beautiful, sacred, and loved.
Questions for Meditation
The Rule of the Brothers of SSJE states, “Christ is already present in the life of everyone as the light of the world.” How do you recognize that light in yourself? In others?
Think about your day. When do you experience darkness and when do you experience light? What is illuminated when light enters? What do you see better when the light is dimmed?
At the beginning of the Great Easter Vigil, we literally share the Light of Christ, as we light one another’s candles from the newly kindled flame. How do we live out this liturgical moment in our daily lives?
Our souls, like the sky, know times of darkness as well as light. Where is the light in your life?