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

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.

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?

 

LONGING FOR GOD

Kabezya-Mpungu, the highest god, had created the sky and the earth and two human beings, a man and a woman endowed with reason. However, these two human beings did not, as yet, possess Mutima, or Heart.

Kabezya-Mpungu had four children, the Sun, the Moon, Darkness, and Rain. He called them all together and said to them, “I want to withdraw now, so that Man can no longer see me. I will send down Mutima in my place. But before I take my leave I want to know what you, Rain, are going to do.”

“Oh,” replied Rain, “I think I will pour down without cease and put everything under water.”

“No,” answered the god. “Don’t do that. Look at these two.” And he pointed to the man and the woman. “Do you think they can live under water? You’d better take turns with the Sun. After you have sufficiently watered the earth, let the Sun go to work and dry it.”

The god turned then to the Sun. “And how are you going to conduct yourself?” he asked.

“I intend to shine hotly and burn everything under me,” said his second child.

“No,” replied Kabezya-Mpungu. “That cannot be. How do you expect the people whom I created to get food? When you have warmed the earth for a while, give Rain a chance to refresh it and make the fruit grow.”

“And you, Darkness, what are your plans?”

“I intend to rule forever!” was the answer.

“Have pity!” cried the god. “Do you want to condemn my creatures, the lions and the tigers and the serpents, to see nothing of the world I made? Listen to me. Give the Moon time to shine on the earth, and when you see the Moon in its last quarter, you may again rule. But I have lingered too long. Now I must go.” And he disappeared.

Somewhat later, Mutima, Heart, came along, in a small container no bigger than a hand. Heart was crying, and asked Sun, Moon, Darkness, and Rain, “Where is Kabezya-Mpungu, our father?”

“Father is gone,” they said, “and we do not know where.”

“Oh how great is my desire,” said Heart, “to commune with him. But since I cannot find him I will enter into Man, and through him I will seek God from generation to generation.”

And that is what happened. Ever since, all children born of Man contain Mutima, a longing for God.

Source | The Creation of the World: A Myth of Uganda retold by Charlotte and Wolf Leslau

PONDER AND CONSIDER

Our hearts were made for you oh God and they won’t find rest until they rest in you. | St Augustine

  • Are you living your life with heart?

WHEN MORE IS NOT ENOUGH

There was once a stone cutter who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life.

One day he passed a wealthy merchant’s house. Through the open gateway, he saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stone cutter. He became very envious and wished that he could be like the merchant.

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever imagined, but envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. Soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. “How powerful that official is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a high official!”

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around. It was a hot summer day, so the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the sun!”

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. “How powerful that storm cloud is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud!”

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!”

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, feared and hated by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it – a huge, towering rock. “How powerful that rock is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a rock!”

Then he became the rock, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the hard surface, and felt himself being changed. “What could be more powerful than I, the rock?” he thought.

He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stone cutter.

SOURCE | Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

PONDER AND CONSIDER

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time. | 
T.S. Eliot

We all have amazing power within us. We merely need to know that and daily try to gently be the best we can be, with what we have and wherever we are.

  • What strikes you about this story? What do you connect with?
  • How is discernment illustrated here?
  • Where (if at all) does God show up in this story?
  • What tools does God give us to practice true discernment? How does (or can) our discernment change when we are looking back in hindsight?