The church was in darkness. The new fire was lit and blessed. The Easter candle was lit and carried through the church to its place on the altar. There it burned with a flame that forced back the darkness, a flame which for over an hour burned quite clearly in the shape of a heart.
Now you might think my eyes have really gone screwy. I admit that was my initial reaction. I have mild double vision at the moment so to be sure I closed one eye and then the other. Definitely a heart. “Mom, do you see the flame?” I asked. “It looks like a heart!” she whispered back. This morning after asking a few others who were seated in different parts of the church, I’m assured that I’m neither half-blind nor crazy.
The sense of wonder from last night’s Easter Vigil service has not left me. It’s as though in breathing in the smells of candle wax, lilies, incense and my favorite, the smell of chrism oil, I breathed in wonder itself. Rather than the usual jubilant joy I’ve experienced in Easters past, this year I’m filled with a quiet sense of being loved. In the darkness, my Lord came to me and out of tenderness and compassion gave me a visible sign of his love for me.
This is not the first time I’ve seen the heart. The first time it was over the summer. It was after a ferocious thunderstorm. Before the lighting had totally dissipated, I had my sons in the car and headed to the beach. I’m not a storm chaser. I’m a rainbow chaser and that day I was rewarded with not one but three different rainbows. As I turned away from photographing the last of the three, there in the sky above me was a huge heart-shaped cloud. It was a sign even my younger son knew was from the Lord.
This morning, as I walked the beach and listened to the church bells ringing out the news that Jesus is risen I am reminded that while John baptized with water, Jesus baptizes with fire and the Holy Spirit. My relationship with God has certainly changed since the summer. Shortly after seeing that heart made of water vapor in the sky, I invited God into the darkness I felt inside. I know now that he is there with me. Last night, he reminded me again that no matter how dark things get, he will always be the light burning brightly in my soul.
He Is Risen! Alleluia! Amen! Alleluia!