Imagine an old bowl. It might look like a simple vessel, but for those who appreciate ancient wisdom from other cultures, it can mean much more. Here's a story from the Hawaiian people.
It is known that “each child born comes with a Bowl of Perfect Light.” And providing that the child is taught to carefully, mindfully tend to his or her light, the child grows in strength and is able to do all things - swim with the sharks in the deepest oceans, fly with the birds in the heavens, know and understand all things. If, however, the child becomes envious, jealous, judgmental he or she must drop a stone into their bowl of light, causing some of the light to go out, since light and stone cannot occupy the same space and time. And if one continues to fill the bowl with stones, the light will go out completely, and that person becomes a stone and like a stone, one no longer emits lights, grows, moves. One remains in this state of being. If at any time one tires of being a stone, that person must realize that all he or she needs to do is turn the bowl upside down, letting all the stones fall out and making room in the bowl once again. Light can shine through and fill the bowl once more and grow even brighter than before. We must always remember that nothing is impossible, and a life in the darkness can be turned upside if we choose.Though I had forgotten this story, it struck me how meaningful it would have been had I remembered it on my Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. The Cruz de Ferro is an extremely tall cross at the highest point on the walk across Spain. I had several blog postings about the Cruz de Fero which I share again here.
The custom is to bring a stone with you from wherever you came from across the world. I brought mine from the 3200ft (1100m) mountain behind my house here in Southern California. The stone was carried across way, a reminder that you carry with you things that weigh you down, even on the most arduous of journeys. The pains and suffering we experience while taking the pilgrimage aren't helped by carrying that stone, just as the stones in our lives weigh us down and impede us on our life journey.
So we leave that stone at the cross, asking that our Christ, who carries our burdens and for us, to take that stone off us, relieving us of its weight, lightening our load. Some leave the stones plain, others like myself wrote on the stone the things that the stone represented. I left my stone at the cross and was overwhelmed at how much lighter I felt inside.
Advent comes in the middle of the darkest times of winter. And yet, in the stillness of the night, we still have hope that comes. We await and prepare for that hope. We turn over our bowls to make room for the light. We leave our stones behind at the cross. We remember that we can choose to walk away from the darkness and into the most humble and otherwise empty spaces to find the birth of a miraculous life and light.
Thank you Cynthia for reminding me in these times of winter's darkness that we, celebrating Advent, know that a light shall come and we can make room for that light in our bowls.
May we help those too weak or poor to turn their bowls upside down and may light perpetual shine on them.
May we help those too powerful or rich to have the courage turn their bowls upside down and may light perpetual shine on them.
May we help those too frightened, confused, or lonely to turn their bowls upside and may light perpetual shine on them.
And may your stones be set down so that the light may arc into your bowl of life.