‘If we are people of hope, we look upwards to find the stars’

The truly magnificent 100ft Tree of Light on the grounds of St Mary’s Cathedral became the standout focal point for the celebrations in Killarney this Christmas. Defying the wet and stormy conditions of that night, it sparkled to life on December 8 and it has drawn gasps of admiration from those who have seen it in all its splendour.
The decoration and lighting of the landmark giant Californian Redwood tree, with 3,000 lights, topped with a giant star, is a collaboration between a Christmas in Killarney Festival sub-committee and the Killarney parish and here, Mayor of Killarney, Cllr Michael Gleeson, (pictured) writes how it has brought joy, hope and brightness into the lives and hearts of family, friends and community

The Tree of Light on the grounds of St Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney.
Picture: Valerie O’Sullivan

SINCE earliest childhood, light and darkness have interested, frightened and even captivated me.
The only grandparent that I ever met, my maternal grandfather, was blind through all the years that I knew him. A once powerful man had been side-lined to the fireside chair.
Had he known a little Latin he might with the ancient prophet have cried out: De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine, Domine exaudi vocem meam.
But, as far as I know, he never did cry out in anger at what seemed his cruel fate, rather did he accept that in life, there is and always will be dark into life and life into dark. I hope that I learned a little from his fortitude and calm acceptance.
I hope too, that I learned that in all daily living there is brightness and darkness and that we, as individuals and as community, must, as best we can, learn to deal amicably and equitably with both states of being.

Some weeks ago many gardeners planted garlic cloves, broad beans and winter onions. Deep into the dark soil they placed the bulbs. There, in the quiet darkness of late autumn and early winter, they have quickly established their new existence.

Some of the 3,000 bulbs being erected on the landmark tree.
Picture: Valerie O’Sullivan

Now, from their rooted firmness they are peeping up to embrace whatever light there is – a light that will nourish and fortify them. They are on their great journey from deepest darkness into enriching light. From darkness into light is the everyday story of each new act of creation be it plant, animal or human.

Every person that plants a bulb or sows a seed is, by definition, a person of hope. Every person that does a good deed in and for community is giving real expression to the virtue of hope

In his lonely and tormented Reading Gaol cell, Oscar Wilde understood well that there is a choice to be made by all who wish to savour life and its abiding hope when he said:
Two men looked through prison bars
One saw mud the other stars.

Making the initial plans to decorate and light the tree were Killarney Parish Administrator, Fr Kieran O’Brien (front) with Christmas in Killarney sub-committee members from left, Kate O’Leary, John O’Mahony, Paul Sherry, President, Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce, Cllr Niall Kelleher, Mayor of Kerry, Cormac Foley and Terrence Mulcahy.
Picture: Valerie O’Sullivan

If we are people of hope, we look upwards to find the stars; stars that have given us the eponymous word for all who achieve.
Just as mostly every new beginning has its foundation hidden from view, it is from that deep, mysterious and almost secret place that new life derives its inner and residual strength.

We are, each day, invited to give concrete expression to our innate hope and natural optimism. It is in accepting that invitation that we grow, as individuals and as better members of society.

During Advent, we lit an additional candle each week so, in life, we must each day strive to make our homes, our communities and our world slightly better and brighter places for ourselves and for all others.
We are, by definition, people and communities of hope and that is why we celebrate our journey into the new light of each day.
That too is why we journey with deep optimism through the dark days of December to the immaterial and mystical brightness of Christmas.
May each of us deeply experience that journey and the joyful brightness of our intended destination. In so doing we will, like the lighted tree, bring joy, hope and brightness into the lives and hearts of family, friends and community.
That is why we exist, that is why we travel in hope and that is why light penetrating the darkness is synonymous with our shared optimism.

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