Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oil Lamps

Oil lamp--that became my image. The image that I had (all by myself!) after attending my first Giving Voice gathering January '07.

An oil lamp can theoretically burn continuously as long as the oil is replenished. Oil lamps give off significant amounts of light and more heat than a candle. They are used in many ritual and steeped with great symbolism. Oil lamps have a place in history and are often mentioned in Scripture.

Oil lamp...my image for a gathering of Women Religious, all under 40 continues to be present and vivid for me. It is becoming a profound symbol for my continued call to love as a woman religious. Theoretically, I can burn and burn continuously; as long as my oil is replenished from time to time. The "oil" changes; sometimes it's ministry, community life, deepening relationships, growing in my self, Giving Voice...there are so many sources for "fuel" of my call and my commitment.

The wick is my commitment to this life; my congregation, my sisters who have paved the road before me, who walk with me today, and who I will walk with into the future. Community is at the heart of my commitment, my call to live this life. My sustaining energy is fueled through my commitment to love in this way.

I am the flame. Burning with passion for relationships, integrity, justice, and mission. The nature of an oil lamp allows for the flame to vary in it's intensity. Sometimes I need more fuel; other times I am so saturated that my flame is out of control. A flame's existence in an oil lamp is dependant upon the wick and the oil. If a flame goes out, it is a matter of refueling rather than discarding and beginning again.

And God...well God is the bowl, the glass, the lamp. The fuel, the wick, the flame can't exist without God. God surrounds, contains, offers support and is conditional for existence.

Two scripture quotes jumped out at me when I was searching for some inspiration with the image that keeps on imaging. The first was 2 Samuel 22:29 "For you are my lamp, Yahweh. Yahweh will light up my darkness." The second, Exodus 27:20 "You shall command the children of Israel, that they bring to you pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually."

The first was is great, but my reaction is more, "Aw...that's nice. DUH." I still like it but the juices weren't flowing. Now citation from Exodus struck me, especially after my weekend with Giving Voice. If I take out the "You shall command" part (which makes me cringe) and reframe the meaning of "children", it struck me that the younger members of the itinerant community were in charge of bringing the fuel for the light--a light which was supposed to burn continually.

We, among the youngest religious women in the country, were "in charge" of bringing the fuel to this gathering. Bringing the fuel together to better understand, build bridges, develop relationships...all to ignite a passion and deep love for our commitment. Without it, this lamp could not burn continually. Wowie.
I want to blog about my weekend with Giving Voice, post the crazy pictures and tell some of the stories. I will do that this coming weekend. I'm so wiped out (reentry is exhausting!)


For now...I need to sit with my oil lamp and be grateful that I have been refueled.

1 comment:

Susan Rose, CSJP said...

That's a great image Katy. I thought so when you shared it over the weekend, and this post only deepens that impression. I think I need to spend some time with it in prayer myself.

Great to meet you in the real world. Looking forward to your pictures and stories!

Good luck with reentry....

Susan