Clare hurried along the cobbled street, pulling the wool scarf across her mouth, breath fogging her glasses. A chilly wind crept through York’s ancient passageways. Four o’clock on Christmas Eve. Better to be by a warm fire sipping tea but Clare was seeking peace, peace to soothe her heavy heart. So much hate in the world. The Palestinians and Jews were fighting again, the fragile peace broken by a handful of radicals; the United States and Muslim radicals were at war; China was destroying more sacred sites in Tibet; India and Pakistan were locked in a vicious cycle of retaliation; Africa was awash with horrific genocide.
Everywhere one looked a battle or confrontation was taking place, all in the name of religion. Clare found it challenging to hold to the belief that Love would prevail, that the guiding force in the universe was Love, regardless of the religious name one chose to label it.
Clare was almost at the Minster. The soaring towers dominated the scene, as they did so often, suddenly glimpsed down a narrow street. She found them both comforting and exhilarating. She climbed the few steps, tugged open the heavy door, and walked through the transept back to the Lady Chapel.
Her niche was vacant. She slipped behind the prayer rail and sat, her long coat protecting her from the cold stone. She tilted her head and gazed up at the magnificent East Window, the largest single expanse of medieval stained glass in England. “I am the beginning and the end; the Alpha and the Omega,” it signified. Clare had seen it almost blindingly vivid with the summer sun streaming through lighting the 100 images of saints, angels and martyrs. Now it was lit by concealed lights and the soft glow of prayer candles lit by visitors who filed past. She could hear organ music from the apse.
Clare leaned against the stone niche, aware of the centuries it had welcomed other troubled souls. She took several deep breaths, then more, from the belly deep, and closed her eyes.
She kept breathing, conscious of the “in” breath, the “out” breath. The murmur of voices faded, the music became distant. In…Out…In…Out. The hard stone was no longer separate from her warm coat. Stone…coat…body…chapel…air, no separation.
She drifted in this comfortable space. NOW. No time. Her heart space opened and filled. Her fears dissolved. “The peace that passeth all understanding.” It was here, this moment. She breathed in the peace.
In her mind’s eye, she saw the window towering above the Lady Chapel. She became light and airy, like a soft cloud floating, floating toward the window that glowed blue, red, yellow, as if the brightest light there ever was shone there. Closer now and the brilliant light streaked through the window turning all to a golden glow.
In an instant she was one with the light, and she swirled and swayed and soared up and up and up…sky, space, planet. She saw the earth as a sphere, like the globe she had as a child. She swirled through it, part of this golden storm of radiance. She could feel it covering the sphere, wrapping it, soaring through it. It was like a roller coaster ride… excitement, glorious excitement and joy, pure exuberance.
Then the ride slowed. The golden light became separate from her again. It swirled once more around the chapel and streaked back through the window.
Clare’s breathing quickened and became more shallow. She felt the stone, her coat too warm now. She opened her eyes and tried to focus on the scene. Slowly, she unwound the scarf from her neck. She gazed at the flickering candles.
She breathed gently, aware of the deep peace she felt. There was only Now, this moment and she breathed in the moment. Again. “I choose Peace; I choose Love.” She stayed with this thought while she observed the visitors passing, gazing up at the window. The sounds seemed softer, the faces of the people gentle and peaceful.
Perhaps it was her imagination. She smiled. Whatever it was, it was a miracle for her. The peace she felt was real and when the clouds of fear and worry floated across it, almost obscuring it with their depth, she would see through them to the truth. Love. Love is all there is.
She stood, slipped out of the niche, and walked to the tier of candles. She dropped a coin in the metal box and pulled a candle from an open basket. She lit it from one already burning and set it in the holder.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you.”
On the walk home breathing in the chilly air, damp with promised snow, she couldn’t keep her hands in the warmth of her deep pockets. They kept coming out to rub together almost like clapping. She felt like a child who feels the magic of Christmas Eve, the possibility of all dreams being fulfilled.
She smiled at the thought of angels hovering close. She envisioned a scene of snowy city walls,ancient stone towers, gray tree limbs, and golden angels with enormous wings drawing close to shelter and protect. She reached out and touched the wall–Aldwark Street. She looked into the darkness above and could feel the golden presence. More miracles. “Thank you, thank you,” she murmured, yet again.
Alex had the tea tray waiting. The gas logs were a bright spot in the dimly lit room. The tiny tree twinkled with fairy lights. She sipped the sweet, milky tea and shared her experience with Alex. He listened, the deep peace she felt spilling over to him until he could almost see the golden light streaming through the huge window.
They drifted through the evening, enjoying a candlelit supper, rereading Christmas cards from faraway, listening to carols. At midnight they stepped out into the garden to listen to the Minster bells chiming glad tidings.
Then bedtime, both still filled with deep peace and the sense of anticipation, of Christmas Eve and its magic.
In the morning, they opened stockings in bed and sipped tea. Later while Alex fixed oatmeal, Clare switched on the television.
A man in Jerusalem was being interviewed. “I saw Allah’s angels descend upon the Dome. The golden light was blinding.”
Back to the commentator who continued, “Reports are coming in from all over the globe of experiences of this nature. People are describing angels, or their versions of angels, and bright golden light. Only a portion of the world’s population celebrate Christmas but these occurrences are reported across all religious faiths.
“There are reports that all is quiet in the streets of Bagdad and Afghanistan. Soldiers on the border of India and Pakistan are laying down their arms. In Africa, the leaders have pledged billions to build an infrastructure and feed the people.
“We’re quite stunned by these reports. The Queen is expected to comment on them during her Christmas address to the nation.”
Across the bowls of oatmeal, Clare and Alex looked at each other, hands reaching out to touch, faces wet with tears.
Love does prevail. Love is all there is. Miracles do happen.