A message from Bishop Iffert

Advent 2021

Beloved friends in Christ,

I am praying that you will have a joyful and happy Advent!

A simple song lyric has been with me for more than two weeks. “There is a light that can overcome the darkness. There is no darkness that can overcome the light.” 

Since hearing it for the first time, I have been humming it to myself. Today I was able to identify the song. It is called “There Is a Light.” It is by Cyprian Consiglio and published by Oregon Catholic Press (OCP). I was able to find it on my music streaming service. Check it out for yourself if you can.

“There is a light that can overcome the darkness. There is no darkness that can overcome the light.” 

Thirty years ago, I descended into a coal mine; one of the longest in central Illinois. I traveled more than a mile into that shaft to be introduced to long wall mining. 

At a midway point we stopped in a part of the mine where there was no activity and no electric light. At my guide’s prompting we turned off our headlamps. The darkness was thick and oppressive. I could not see my own hand in front of my face. I immediately felt disoriented. I could feel the threat of that darkness. I imagined I might be falling. 

After a couple long minutes, my guide turned on his lamp. It was as if the sun had risen in that out-of-the-way place. All of that darkness and fear retreated at the coming of the light. Darkness, it reminded me, is nothing—literally, no thing. It is just a void; the absence of light.

“There is a light that can overcome the darkness. There is no darkness that can overcome the light.”

This week, we enter into the holy season of Advent, this season of waiting for the coming of the Light—Jesus. One way we keep Advent is by lighting the candles of an Advent wreath. Notice the colors of the Advent wreath and Advent liturgy—a dark violet shot through with rose. They are the colors of the early morning sky as we wait for the appearance of the light and our eyes begin to adjust to the dawning day.

Day-by-day and week-by-week we light the candles of the Advent wreath, waiting for the celebration of Christmas. We are reminded that we are also waiting for the second coming of Christ into the world. We remember that the final word—the final victory—is already His.

“There is a light that can overcome the darkness. There is no darkness that can overcome the light.”

So here is an Advent prayer practice that I propose. Let’s make of ourselves living Advent candles. As we sit in prayer and waiting throughout this holy season, let’s practice inviting the Light to come into our own lives and into our world. 

Sit or kneel upright and visualize your body filled with all of the purpling fears, anxieties, frets, and sins that you know. Breathe in deeply. Imagine the Light of Christ and His Spirit rushing into your being with each breath, displacing all that other bruised and bruising stuff. Have confidence that your Savior is eager to come to you. 

As you exhale, visualize your attachment to sin and fear thinning. Trust in the light that fills you and drives out the darkness. Say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Embrace repentance. Listen for what Jesus is trying to say to you. 

Repeat.

When you are brightened and ready, confident in Christ and unafraid, continue your prayer as you are accustomed. Then, step out into the world to let the light of justice and mercy shine through you. Practice recognizing that same light in others. As you do, be assured of one absolute truth . . .

“There is a light that can overcome the darkness. There is no darkness that can overcome the light.”

United with you in longing for Christ’s coming,
Most Rev. John C. Iffert
Bishop of Covington

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