Salonen: The light of Christmas burns long and bright

Roxane Salonen
Roxane Salonen

As of this writing, I have yet to experience this year’s Christmas midnight Mass at the base of the spire of the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Bismarck, the sounds of brass resounding from the choir loft, and voices, like angels, ringing out the good news as night turns into the soft light of day.

Indeed, the Christmas poinsettias have yet to be placed at the base of the altar; the light of the evergreens remain unlit. But already, my memory is alive with these treasures of Christmases past, and the joy that is ours if we but accept the gift of our savior.

In these weeks of preparation, my joy has been diminished only by knowing some have forgotten, or, perhaps, never known this light-filled hope.

John 1:3-5 speaks of it: “All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

In a world of noise and contention, how easy it is to forget, yet like the three wisemen who left for a faraway land undaunted in their quest to discover the light’s source, so must we seek this treasure.


Our family traveled the long road to Duluth, Minn., recently to hear our brown-eyed-girl perform in the “O Holy Night” Christmas concert with the College of Saint Scholastica’s musical ensembles.

We arrived at the cathedral in the dark, the looming building ahead barely visible as we approached. But inside, light shone from the sacred sanctuary, and we waited expectantly to receive the gift of song seeped in the hope of a tiny king sent by God to free the captives – to free us.

Just a few hours earlier, I’d opened “The Reed of God” by English writer Caryll Houselander and become seized by her description of Mary, Jesus’ mother: “She was a reed through which the Eternal Love was to be piped as a shepherd’s song.”

Later, in that acoustically magnificent space, a choir, led by a female conductor who danced her directives, sang a shepherd’s song. As it enveloped our hearts, I yearned for all who’d lost hope to be there with us, if only to recall the life-giving glow of Christ’s light.

Despite my inability to bring the music of that evening here, I pray, dear reader, that you will be enlivened through Houselander’s suggestion of the shepherd’s song, and that if you’ve lost a sense of the light, your memory will soon reawaken, for it is real and meant for you.

Our lives, Houselander said, are like “a little flame, carried through darkness and storm, burning palely in brilliant sunlight, shining out like a star in darkness, life in the brave keeping of love given from age to age in a kiss.”

May the Christmas light of his love live and grow in you, now and forever.

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