Candles on the Street

sisters snow.jpgBy Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

Darkness started to fall as we foraged through the pile of snow clothes in the backseat of the car. My dad drove the same route we had done so many times as my mom helped us find the lost mitten or wool sock. We pulled in across the street and rolled out of the car barely visible inside the bundle of warmth. We crossed the street and stood as a heavy stream of cars exited the driveway beside us. My parents held signs and lit a single purple candle for it was the first Monday in Advent.

My sister and I ran down the small hill behind them and immersed ourselves in the midst of the trees we knew so well. Collecting pine cones and checking the strength of the ice in the little stream that ran alongside the fence, while inside the building cruise missile engines were being constructed.  We scattered cat tail seeds and glimpsed over our shoulder at the single flame held in my mom’s mittened hands.

At the end of the hour, we would hear my dad whistle and run up the hill. My mom, dad, sister and I would hold hands and sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel in the darkness lit only by headlights and this single flame. We were singing about hope and peace and light amidst the darkness. Then we would cross the street, pile in the car, discard all our layers, and head home. We would be back next Monday with the second purple candle, and the week after that, and the week after that, and the year after that. It was the same each year sometimes with blockades and arrests, sometimes just us and a single candle crying out for disarmament.

It was like the days grew colder and my body knew where it was supposed to be. In the same place it was every year. The same pine trees and cat tails, same signs, same candles, same song. It was a rhythm my body held. The liturgical season reminded me where to act and the action awakened the meaning of the ancient season. Here, at this factory, is where I learned that there is no separation between faith and justice. I didn’t read it in a book or listen to a lecture, I learned in my bones by doing the same thing over and over again.

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