Every Advent I place battery-operated flameless candles in the windows of our home. Each has a timing mechanism which turns them on for six hours and then off for eighteen hours. The cycle repeats daily throughout the Advent and Christmas Seasons. I always look forward to seeing them come on right before sunset every evening. I like to think they give a sense of hope to passersby on the County Road immediately to the east of our property, prompting them to think about, prepare for, and celebrate the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas.
One of the candles, however, does not cycle like the rest. It will simply not go off. I call it “This Little Light of Mine,” one that shines all the time, day and night, as long as the batteries within have power. This symbolic image of fire, with which it pierces the darkness, is the same light which emanates uncompromisingly throughout the day. And so, like the song says, I “…let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
In 1 Thessalonians 5:19-24, we are reminded not to quench the Holy Spirit, who is often represented by an image of fire. This reminds us it is He who purifies and refines us, as metal is forged in superheated temperatures, in order to mold and shape us into His image. We need to more frequently consider that the seven gifts we received at Confirmation are still with us; gifts not made at all for us but made explicitly for others. Our task is to sharpen them by using them in the service of our neighbor.
To quench the Holy Spirit is to diminish His existence and his influence in our spiritual lives, to not call upon Him in our necessities, to avoid exercising the gifts He gave us when we were sealed forever with His own indelible mark as the Sacred Chrism was applied to our foreheads.
The fire of the Holy Spirit is extinguished through mortal sin, of course, but His flame that should be burning brightly within us is also significantly reduced when we neglect His inspirations. To see the need and not respond. To be able to provide the support and elect, instead, to ignore. To choose the evil and reject the good.
Thankfully, we have recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. St. Paul also reminds us we have others who are praying fervently for us. And we have the Holy Spirit to call upon at a moment’s notice and who will be there whenever we need Him.
Every time we pray the Creed, we pronounce the words, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” For years now, whenever I say these words, I think to myself, “I just hope the Holy Spirit believes in me.”
Let us then, this Advent, renew our friendship with the Holy Spirit and our commitment to cooperate with the graces He is eagerly awaiting to bestow upon us if only we ask. And let us discern, through prayer, what He wishes us to do for him and others with the gifts He’s given us. Let us be His little light in this dark world, one that refuses to go dark.