Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

And Hope Prevailed


The first candle symbolizes Hope. In most Christian churches, the four weeks leading up to Christmas is known as Advent. And part of the celebration of Advent is the ceremonial lighting of candles - one at the beginning of each week. Hope is the first candle, followed by the candles of Preparation, Joy, and Love, with a final Christ Candle lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Last Sunday, we lit the candle of Hope in my church. What made this particular lighting remarkable was that it came excitingly close to going up in uncontrollable flames, taking all of the other candles and the rest of the wreath-shaped arrangement with it.

The wick that was being used to light the Hope candle unexpectedly fell out of its holder and plopped down into the bed of evergreens beneath it. A few gasps from the congregation. A moment of tense surprise. Then it simply fizzed and popped a bit and went out on its own. The steady hand that was doing the lighting calmly picked up a new taper and successfully lit the candle on the second try. All was saved and Hope prevailed.

And Hope prevailed.

As I watched the flame of the Hope candle - small but sure - my mind couldn't stop from wandering back over the past couple of weeks of my own life. And how much "hope" had been intertwined and integral to it within just that single measure of time.

On a small personal level, I recently got run over by my 82-pound dog, Indy. My fault entirely - but I have been left with strained, sprained, and otherwise painfully stressed parts of my entire left leg - mostly knee, hip, ankle ... a bit of my back.

I try to focus on the hope that it will soon pass. That I will recover. And I am humbled by the courage of those who have no such hope. Those who live with pain that will not cease or heal or even ease. And I can't imagine what it would be like to be without such hope.

Then, too, this is the season when we all start to come together to fill shoeboxes and collection bins, angel trees and secret Santa sacks - all with the singular intent of keeping hope alive and well and living in the hearts of our children. Especially those children who could have their hope extinguished as easily as a breath against a candle flame.

Yet, even more recently, I have been working with the Equine Rescue of Aiken [South Carolina] on a project for the Saratoga WarHorse program. Learning about the amazing horses that have been selected as participants, I have heard their histories of broken hearts and ravaged spirits - and noted that the one shared triumph among them is that they have somehow regained or held fast to their hope.

And what of the veterans themselves? The one common thread that seems to be woven throughout their own brokenness is their loss of hope. While the one uncommon miracle woven throughout this program is how hope is rekindled within them.

As my thoughts were drawn back again to the candle flame of Hope, I marveled at the strength of its tiny brilliance. And I was glad it is the first to be lighted at the beginning of Advent - because then it will burn the longest.

And I considered that perhaps we should have rejoiced in its near flaming start after all. Just imagine the possibilities if Hope really did catch on fire.

Marti Healy is the author of the books "The God-Dog Connection," "The Rhythm of Selby," "The Secret Child," and a collection of her columns: "Yes, Barbara, There is an Aiken."


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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.