Published December 1, 2005
There is an old barn here on our property at the monastery. I do not know what it was used for years ago. These days, it is used for storage, though that may be too fancy a term. A lot of things have been left there—things that ended up there because there was probably no other place to put them: old pipes, old bonsai stuff, bales of hay, old washing machines. There are slabs of marble from some church. The slabs are neatly stacked near the large rear doors. I sit next to them in a beach chair and can leave a cup of coffee on the top slab. I am surprised that no other use was found for them. The marble is beautiful and could still be put to some use.
On both sides of the barn, there are windows. Most of the glass is long gone, but a few panes are left. The paint on the frames is long gone though there are traces of red and white paint. For the most part, the wood is exposed and slowly rotting away. Where there were once strips of wood, the wood has been eaten away and rusty nails rise an inch or two on what remains of the windowsills. A soft green moss can be seen in a lot of places, especially where there is a lot of shadow.
Over the years, vines have grown up the outer walls and into the windows. In the early morning, the play of light as it enters those windows is beautiful. I have taken a lot of pictures of the windows, trying to capture all the different shades of light as the sun enters them in the morning. Even on rainy mornings, the light is soft and beautiful. It seems that I see something different every morning and have not yet grown tired of taking pictures. There are cracks and tiny holes in the walls of the barn and light finds its way through these as well. The light looks like slices of gold when it shines through the small openings. Wherever possible, the light finds its way through.
The light in the barn is so beautiful—it transforms all it illumines.
From the tiniest ray of light to a more generous amount as it shines through the broken windows, it is all beautiful and somehow “giving.”
It is like that all over the world, every second of every day.
It shines on and through things—on fields, on streets, through windows—through whatever lets it through.
If God is a kind of light, if love is a kind of light, then that light can shine through people as well—through healthy people and broken people, through peoples of all colors and cultures, through people of belief and non-belief. The light is that generous, non-discriminatory and all encompassing.
If God is a kind of light, then that light is shining through the pain and loss of a lot of people. Where there is care, where there are words of comfort, of hope, of condolence, of sorrow—there is the kind of light that is God, finding its way through the kindness of people who reach out to others in sorrow and hope.
The light is different every morning as it shines through and into the old barn. No two mornings are quite alike. The light of God shines as well through life every day, in as different ways as there are people and ways of loving.
The barn windows are old and tired-looking. I doubt that they will ever be repaired. It does not matter—the light shines through them.
And it is as true that as we age and life seems to have no easy answers, we can be overwhelmed by events over which we have no control.
But we can still be of light to each other. We can choose to let light shine through our brokenness, for perhaps that is the only way the light can come through.
Father James Stephen Behrens, OCSO, is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. He is the author of “Grace Is Everywhere: Reflections of an Aspiring Monk,” which is available at the monastery Web store at www.trappist.net.