DANBURY—Illuminating the world with the light of Christ was enhanced with a Peace Light service at St. Peter’s Church in Danbury at the beginning of Advent.
The annual event drew dozens of people to the neo-Gothic church on Main Street to welcome the Peace Light that was lit at the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem and traveled to Vienna and New York before making its way to Danbury to be shared throughout this Christmas season.
“The true light of life is Christ,” said Father Bernardo C. Rodriguez, parochial vicar at St. Peter’s, who led the bilingual candlelit evening service accompanied by the Spanish Community Choir.
The Peace Light from Bethlehem campaign was originally organized in 1986. Each year, a child from Upper Austria fetches the light from the grotto in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. The light is then flown to Austria and is distributed at a Service of Dedication to numerous delegations to share around the world at ecumenical services with a message of peace.
The Peace Light was carried into St. Peter’s Church, the third oldest parish in the Diocese of Bridgeport, and placed on the altar by Rosty Slabicky assisted by Gary Prybylski, both scout leaders, charged along with many others to shepherd the light on its journey to illuminate the world. Many scouts and guides take the light to houses of worship, hospitals, homeless shelters, nursing homes, prisons and places of public, cultural and political importance.
During his homily, Father Bernardo shared an all too familiar childhood experience of being afraid of the dark. He said he, like many others, found comfort in a night light or the soft glow of a candle. The light represented safety and security and brought with it a peaceful feeling that everything would be okay. “Light helps us see what is in front of us and what is coming,” he said, adding, “Christ is the light of the world and the Prince of Peace. We look to him to be our sanctuary.”
During the ceremony, Father Bernardo asked everyone to close their eyes and take three deeps breaths.
“Think of life now and what’s going on,” he said, and then encouraged those gathered to then look at the lantern and pray, “God, I ask you to take everything of me that is not of you and replace it with a peace within me.”
Father Bernardo urged those gathered to find quiet time every day, especially during Advent, to spend time with God. “We need to fill ourselves with His love and peace so that we are able to share that love and peace with family, friends and others,” he said, adding, “Christ is the one true person who loves us unconditionally.”
After the homily, Father Bernardo lit a candle from the Peace Light and passed the flame on to others in attendance, who were all given unlit candles when they entered the church. Each person then lit the candle of the person behind them and soon the church was beautifully aglow with the flickering light of dozens of candles.
At the conclusion of the service, there was a solemn procession outside with the lit candles. The candles were used to light a bonfire where all gathered for warmth and to share in the happiness of the season with hot chocolate and cookies.
The candles, many extinguished by the wind, can be lit again and the essence of the light from Bethlehem can be shared with others to continue spreading the light of Christ throughout the world. It is estimated that 30 million people throughout the world share the light during the Christmas season.
“We should share the peace and light of our life,” Father Bernardo said, “with everyone in our lives.”
*Note: A small candle lit from the Peace Light remains on the altar at St. Peter’s Church for anyone who would like to bring the Peace Light into their home or share it with others.
By Kathy-Ann Gobin