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Back when I was sitting my wife's hospital room on January 27, I raised the subject of her illness with a diary I titled Quakers ask people to hold them in the light.  As I take my periodic turn to offer Brothers and Sisters, I thought I would offer some thoughts on this Friendly practice, sharing some thoughts of others as well as my own.

i invite you to continue reading.  And remember:

Welcome to Brothers and Sisters, the weekly meetup for prayer* and community at Daily Kos.  We put an asterisk on pray* to acknowledge that not everyone uses conventional religious language, but may want to share joys and concerns, or simply take solace in a meditative atmosphere. Anyone who comes in the spirit of mutual respect, warmth and healing is welcome.

Kim at Light Cottage offered these thoughts:

"I will hold you in the Light" - we Quakers often say this when we intend to pray for someone.

   When we want for someone what God wants for them - peace and healing, and well-being, and soundness of mind and body and spirit.

  To say to someone " I will hold you in the Light", is the equivalent of lifting them up to God, lifting them to light and goodness, so they can have hope and peace.
Holding someone in the Light is prayer.  It is also an expression of comfort and love.

Julie McCarty has a piece called Praying for Others the Quaker Way (from her syndicated column, "The Prayerful Heart," in which she offers explanation and some words of others.  Allow me to share several short selections:
    In Quaker spirituality, the image of light represents the mysterious presence of God.  Friends might describe the light as the Holy Spirit, the Inward Light, "Christ in You," or "that of God in everyone."
     To hold someone in the light is to seek, through prayer, to bring that person into deeper contact with the Divine Presence.  Some Quakers imagine the person for whom they are praying actually bathed in a beautiful, gentle light, or picture them surrounded with a halo-liked quality.
     Noted Quaker writer Douglas Steere describes it this way:  "I hold persons up before God in intercession, loving them and seeing them with God, longing for a healing and redeeming power to course through their lives.  I hold up certain social situations, certain projects.  At such a time I often see things that I may do in company with or that are related to that person or this situation.  I hold up the persons in the meeting and their needs, as I know them, to God."
here I note that Douglas Steere was a long-term professor at Haverford whom I did not get to know until after we had both completed our terms at Haverford College, when he used to participate in an ecumenical prayer group led by the man who became my father-in-law

Also from McCarty:  

Eighty-three-year-old Friend Dorothy Ackerman told me that holding a person in the Light means focusing on "that of God in each person."  For example, if someone is ill, it is as if their inner energy is running very low, like embers in a fire that are nearly out.  When we hold this person in the Light, it is like fanning the flame of God within him or her.
the words in quotes are from George Fox, commonly regarded as the founder of the Society of Friends

In Glossary of Quaker Terms from New York Monthly Meeting (a monthly Meeting is equivalent to a parish), we read

HOLD IN THE LIGHT - To ask for God's presence to illumine a person, situation, or problem, whether in concern or thanksgiving.
 This connect with the broader Quaker sense of the importance of light, we we find in this adjacent selection:  
INWARD LIGHT - This refers to the power and inspiration of God or Christ coming inwardly to us to show us our true motivations, guide us, lead us, and give us strength to act on this guidance--thus bringing us into unity with the Spirit.  This concept differs from "conscience," which is a developed awareness of the merits or faults of our conduct, intentions, or character and the sense of obligation to do right.  The "Inward Light" is also called the "Light Within," the "Christ Within, the "LIght of Christ," the "Holy Spirit," and "The Seed." Often, the term is written "Inner Light," implying that the light comes from each of us, but that is not part of early Friends' concept.
In this Reading for Reflection from Ann Arbor Friends Meeting we read :
When I Hold people in the Light I am most comfortable visualizing them wrapped in an actual warm light. To me it represents God's love. If I know the person, I "see" them. If not, I find my mind still sees a light and I know that God is, and will be, caring for that person. A speaker at the FGC Gathering this year led us to understand that in the Bible we are instructed to petition God. So many of us wonder if it's "OK" to pray for health and well being, and it was wonderful to be invited to ask.

I like to think of “holding in the Light” as being “holding in Love.” The Light to me represents God’s love and some of its qualities, and so when I think of holding someone in the Light I picture them surrounded by visual, bright Light, but also surrounded by something with warmth and a soft texture. In the Psalms there is reference to being borne up on the wings of an eagle, and I like the image of an eagle’s wing as part of God’s love. The wing can be powerful, strong, and uplifting, but on the ground the wing can encircle us in a warm and comforting way. Thus, I envision someone being held in brightness, warmth, and softness.

Because I spent some time in the Orthodox Church, I cannot help but connect this with the idea of the uncreated light in which Christ was bathed on Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration.  Perhaps the most famous illustration of this in Orthodox literature comes from the 19th Century, the conversation of Motovilov with Saint Seraphim of Sarov (about which I have written for Brothers and Sisters a number of years ago).  If you are interested in that you can read the entire conversation here

To me, the importance of that Orthodox understanding is that when someone is in that kind of Light, they are fully in the Presence of God, whatever that may mean to each of us.  They are seen in full reality.

The image of light infuses a great deal of our understanding.  We talk about "a light going off" when someone grasps an idea.  We view light as good and darkness as bad, and thus have christened an entire age of an explosion of knowledge both scientific and humanistic as The Age of Enlightenment.   We describe improvements in how we treat others or the world around as as "enlightened."  

Or as many of us may have song at some point, "this little light of mine, I'm gonna make it shine!"  It is little only because it is not the complete Light, at least as the Orthodox understood it, although it connects us, as we Quakers understand it.

I have spent most of this weekend with my high school classmates, for the 50th anniversary of our graduation, the actual occasion of which is tomorrow, on a Monday as June 24th was in 1963.  

I think in some ways we have become enlightened - about ourselves, about each others.

We were able to see, to embrace, and not to judge.

We opened up to one another - we let the light in, illuminating secret hurts previously hidden behind walls.

To hold someone In the Light is, for me, to wish for whatever may be best for them.  It is hard to realize that we - and they - may not understand what that is.  

Justin Martyr once describe love as being like a candle, because when it lit another candle, it in no way was diminished.  If we think about it, to light another candle is brighten our own world as well.

For me to Hold in the Light is to open myself to the life and person of the other, and thus to expand my own life - that enlightens me, and that comes through vulnerability, because real care can only come from being vulnerable to those about whom one offers care and concern.

This is a community diary.

Feel free to offer your comments and observations.

You do not have to agree with mine.

Respect the place.

Respect each other.

Be kind to one another.

Share your concerns.

Take on the concerns of others.

Let us Hold one another in the Light.


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