THE LEGEND OF HELIOPHER

Once upon a time there was a people that was lost in a great, dark forest. The trees stood so close together that the light of the sun could not penetrate the thickly entwined branches. There were also numerous wild animals which fell upon the people, especially the children when they wandered too far from their parents while they were playing. So everyone lived in constant fear of death and destruction, and a hopeless despair took hold of the hearts of the folk.

Continuous darkness had strangled all the light in their hearts. They could not love one another any more. They even hated and murdered one another in their rage. Yet they were forced to remain together, for it was impossible for any single man to defend himself against the attacks of the wild beasts. They had lost all hope of ever finding their way out of the forest. Many of the young people refused to believe in the light they had never seen, and they mocked their elders, when, with a last weak light gleaming in their dim eyes, they recounted tales of the festive, sunny days of their youth.

Among the people, however, there was a young man called Heliopher. He was very much alone, grieving over the misery of his people and seeking a way of salvation. He bore in his heart an endless longing for light and love in the desolation which surrounded him. Heliopher left his people to seek the sun. For many months and years he wandered through the dangers of the forest and of his own soul, and often, very often, nearly lost all hope and confidence. But Heliopher bravely withstood his enemies, whether within himself or around him, and at last he reached the edge of the forest and saw the light of the sun. In terrible amazement he fell into a swoon, and when he awoke he saw in the twilight that he was watched over in his slumber by beautiful people. In the green meadows stood the simple huts of the sun-people, and Heliopher lived with them in peace and endless joy as the most beloved amongst them.

Then Heliopher went back to the forest to seek his people. “Come, brothers and sisters,” he said to them, “I will lead you to the light.” At this there was murmuring and frowning, wavering and hesitation, wonder and questioning, incredulous laughter, and finally a jubilant “Yes!” And then, at last, the longed-for departure.

Then the light of the sun shone in Heliopher’s eyes, but the way was long and difficult, and demanded much suffering and sacrifice, and murmuring arose among the people. Some spoke and said, “Let us murder him, the betrayer of the people!” And the dark glow of hatred was in their eyes. Others were wiser and said, “No! Let us judge him in the presence of all, for it is dangerous to give the people a martyr.” And Heliopher spoke to his people, and talked about light and love. But the wise ones answered, “You lie! There is no light, there is no sun, there is no love. Let us be darker than the forest and more cruel than the wild beasts. Then we shall be masters of the forest!”

Heliopher answered in great pain, “O believe not, ye wise men, that ye can be victorious over darkness by being more dark, that ye can overcome the wild beasts by being more beastly. Only love is stronger. Only the light of the sun can drive away darkness.”

“Be silent!” said the wise men. “There is no light, there is no sun!”

And the people shouted, flinging their arms about in raging despair, “There is no light, there is no sun!”

But Heliopher called out, “Follow me!” And with his nails he tore open his breast, and his heart burned with love, and it glowed and shed its beams through the dark forest. Then he took it in both hands, held it high over his head, and strode forth in front of the people.

In reverent wonder and silence the multitude followed the burning heart.

And the people went in jubilation toward the sun and danced in its loving rays, and they loved one another. But Heliopher knelt down at the edge of the forest, and with the last strength of his outstretched arms he held up his loving, pulsing heart to the light of heaven, and gave his last smile to his people.

Source: First published in Plough’s Winter 1938 issue
based on Maxim Gorky’s story
“The Flaming Heart of Danko.”

CONSIDER THIS

“I wish each of us Easter eyes, able to perceive in death, life; in guilt, forgiveness; in separation, unity; in wounds, glory; in the human, God; in God, the human; and in the I, the You.” – Bishop Klaus Hemmerle

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LOOKING FOR THE MISSING RING

Mulla had lost his ring in the living room. He searched for it for a while, but since he could not find it, he went out into the yard and began to look there. His wife, who saw what he was doing, asked: “Mulla, you lost your ring in the room, why are you looking for it in the yard?”

Mulla stroked his beard and said: “The room is too dark and I can’t see very well. I came out to the courtyard to look for my ring because there is much more light out here.”

Source:  Classic Tales of Mulla Nasreddin
Retold by Houman Farzad
Translated from Persian by Diane L. Wilcox.
(Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa, California, 1989) page 26

 

CONSIDER THIS

Like Mulla Nasreddin, many are constantly looking for the key to happiness, the key to bliss, the key to freedom, the key to inner peace and tranquility, the key to love, and the key to God in the wrong place: in the place where we think there’s most light!

What if the one and only right place to find the key to life is the deep, dark cave of our innermost being: our heart?

ROMANCE OF SUN AND MOON

The moon was alone one evening, shining in the midnight sky. Although she was surrounded by myriads of tiny, sparkly stars, she felt as if there was no one to understand her. She eagerly searched the skies for a friend, perhaps a meteor, with whom to discuss the joys and sorrows of her life. But there was nobody.

On the other side of the world, the sun yawned and awoke to shine his light upon the blue-green temples of God. He heard the call to worship, and saw the waves of people bowing and praying. He felt full of good will and charity towards the masses of God’s servitors. Perhaps they were not holy, but at least they were faithful.

The moon stayed alone, suspended in the sky with none to touch her. A tiny star whispered to her of a great being, the sun, who brought joy and light to the world. She listened with interest, for it seemed that once, a long time ago, she had seen a being such as this. Beautiful as he was, the sun seemed always just beyond her reach. She would visit the places where he had been, and would always find that he had just left. Those who knew him spoke of his wonder and his glory, and she felt unworthy to be in his presence.

Now the sun was unaware of her yearning, for he was too busy making the crops grow and warming the world. Those who wished his light had only to look upward to heaven and he was there, beaming down upon them.

The moon continued to follow the sun, always coming nearer to him, always hearing that he had just left that portion of the sky, or was just over the next mountain range. Where before there was despair, now she was ever more hopeful, for she knew that she was approaching his presence.

She came closer and closer, until one glorious day came when she stood before him, naked and unafraid. The world looked up and saw only blackness – in the middle of the day. But the moon stood mid-way between the sun and the earth, and all of his glory was for her.

His light blotted out all of her loneliness, all of her pain, all of her past. She stood bathed in wonder before him, and his light filled her soul.

She passed away from him full of light and joy, and though his light was too bright to remember, it was also too powerful to forget. She was dizzy with wonder. As time passed, it seemed that she once had been a being full of light, yet it was so long ago!

Source: crystalrivers.com

CONSIDER THIS

Sometimes, I think of the sun and moon as lovers who rarely meet, always chase, and almost always miss one another. But once in a while, they do catch up, and they kiss, and the world stares in awe of their eclipse.

ATTITUDES TOWARD THE LIGHT

The Simon Community run night-shelters for down-and-outs. Each night volunteers bring soup and sandwiches to those who, for one reason or another, do not want to come to the shelters. They go looking for them in derelict buildings and such places. The most important aid they take with them is a torch, because often there is no light where the down-and-outs live. Most of the down-and-outs receive the volunteers as friends. But some refuse to have anything to do with them. The volunteers can tell at once which group they are dealing with by their reaction to the light.

Some welcome the light. Others fear it. You could say that the light judges them, in the sense that it shows up the darkness in their lives – the darkness of alcoholism, misery, hopelessness, crime. But it doesn’t come to judge them. It comes as a friend, to brighten up their lives, to comfort them.

Source | Flor McCarthy, New Sunday and Holyday Liturgies
(Dominican Publications; Revised edition, 2011)

CONSIDER THIS

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” | Martin Luther King Jr

  • What is your response to the light?
  • What is it that is revealed when light is shone on you?

TWINS IN THE WOMB

Twins are talking to each other in the womb.  The sister said to the brother, “I believe there is life after birth.”  Her brother protested vehemently, “No, no, this is all there is. This is a dark and cozy place, and we have nothing else to do but to cling to the cord that feeds us.” The little girl insisted, “There must be something more than this dark place. There must be something else, a place with light where there is freedom to move.” Still she could not convince her twin brother.

After some silence, the sister said hesitantly, “I have something else to say, and I’m afraid you won’t believe that, either, but I think there is a mother.” Her brother became furious. “A mother!” he shouted. “What are you talking about?” I have never seen a mother, and neither have you. Who put that idea in your head? As I told you, this place is all we have. Why do you always want more?. This is not such a bad place, after all. We have all we need, so let’s be content.”

The sister was quite overwhelmed by her brother’s response and for a while didn’t dare say anything more. But she couldn’t let go of her thoughts, and since she only had her twin brother to speak to, she finally said, “Don’t you feel these squeezes every once in a while? They’re quite unpleasant and sometimes even painful.” “Yes,” he answered. “What’s special about that?” “Well”, the sister said, “I think that these squeezes are there to get us ready for another place, much more beautiful than this, where we will see our mother face-to-face. Don’t you think that’s exciting”

Source | Henri Nouwen, Our Greatest Gift, A Meditation on Dying and Caring 
(Harper One, 2009) pages 18-19.

CONSIDER THIS

This is a story about birth and life outside the womb. But can it  also be a story about death? Can it perhaps be an  invitation to think about death in a fresh way?  We can live as if this life were all we had, coming to an end with the absurdity of death. Or we can choose to claim our divine childhood and trust that death is the painful but graceful passage that will bring us face-to-face with God, our mother.

DARKNESS AND LIGHT

A rabbi asked his students, “When is it at dawn that one can tell the light from the darkness?”

One student replied, “When I can tell a goat from a donkey.”

“No,” answered the rabbi.

Another said, “When I can tell a palm tree from a fig.”

“No,” answered the rabbi again.

“Well, then what is the answer?” his students pressed him.

“Only when you look into the face of every man and every woman and see your brother and your sister,” said the rabbi. “Only then have you seen the light. All else is still darkness.”

Source | Johann Christoph Arnold, Seeking Peace
(Plume, 2000) page 103

CONSIDER THIS

“We can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do by what we deny ourselves, what we resist and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create and who we include.”  | from the ‘Chocolat’

Who is it that you are still excluding from the circle of your compassion?

NO DARKNESS HERE

Once upon a time a Cave lived under the ground, as caves have the habit of doing. It had spent its lifetime in darkness.

One day it heard a voice calling to it, “Come up into the light; come and see the sunshine.”

But the cave retorted, “I don’t know what you mean. There isn’t anything but darkness.” Finally the Cave was convinced to venture forth. He was amazed to see light everywhere and not a speck of darkness anywhere. He felt oddly warm and happy.

Turnabout was fair play and so, looking up to the Sun, the Cave said, “Come with me and see the darkness.”

The Sun asked, “What is darkness?”

The Cave replied, “Come and see!”

One day the Sun accepted the invitation. As it entered the Cave it said, “Now show me your darkness.”

But there was no darkness!

Source | Quiet Moment With God for Teens
(Honor Books, 2003) page 154

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day. | Proverbs 4:18
  • Light is above us, and colour around us; but if we have not light and colour in our eyes, we shall not perceive them outside us. | Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Many people are afraid of the dark. Strangely, some are afraid of the light. Where do you stand? … what is your preference?  Dark? Light? What can you do to befriend both and see how one needs the other?