Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The living light

By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published April 20, 2017

Up until a few weeks ago, it was still dark when we gathered in our church for daily morning Mass. Since daylight savings time began, we now enjoy the morning light as it shines through our stained glass windows.

Streaks and splashes of color are reflected through the windows and when I raise my eyes upward and gaze at the walls, they are like surfaces on which the light glistens and shifts. The shades of blue, yellow and rose make an ever-changing interplay, as if never satisfied to stay in one place and look the same for any length of time.

People sometimes tell me that they feel guilty if their minds wander in church, if one thing or another distracts them from focusing on God.

But perhaps God likes to adorn himself through the beauty that is light (or, for that matter, art, music, peace, joy—all things that move our hearts).

Jesus called himself the light of the world. He is living light, a light that really is love, truth and goodness.

When people mention to me the beautiful play of light that takes place in our church, I think about that same light that is given us through Jesus, the light he is, and how that light is as well manifested in so many different ways through people: their joys, their smiles, their cultures, their differences.

If the world can be seen as a vast church, well, the light display that shines through all living creatures pours forth from the glory that is God.

Recently I celebrated Mass for a small group of guests. I was told later that several of them did not speak English. I knew who they were. They were sitting right up front, looking upward in wonder at the play of morning light. It was especially beautiful that day. Whatever may have escaped their understanding because of their unfamiliarity with English, it did not matter. They were distracted by the light, a light that spoke to them in as refined a language as English.

Makes me wonder if it is God’s preferred mode of communicating to us, filling our eyes and hearts with wonder, even when we think we are most distracted.

Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at