In the mornings, I sit in our parish church and my gaze often finds its way to the little red lamp which glows comfortingly to the left of the Tabernacle. When I visit other parishes nearby, the little red lamp is one of the first things I look for.
And even on holidays, I will try to pop into the nearest Catholic church and there, too, I will look for the little red lamp. This was the case at Westminster Cathedral in London, where I made this image of the little red lamp in the Eucharistic Chapel there – the one quiet little spot within a much larger space where the tourists throng relentlessly.
This little red lamp has one sole purpose – to tell us that the Lord is there, nearby in the Blessed Sacrament, truly present under the appearance of bread. And it is for this single reason that the little red lamp comforts me – I know that He is there with me, with us.
Across the world, a million similar little red lamps flicker gently, no matter the light or the dark, the busyness or the emptiness, the noise or the silence which surrounds them. And in every one of those million places, He is there.
It has often struck me that the little red lamp reminds me very much of something else – a heart. The flickering light within is not dissimilar to the beat of the heart, reminding us that the heart is truly alive, that is beats, and that it loves, because that is what hearts do – they love. I cannot help but imagine this similarity was part of the design somewhere way back. The real Heart, of course, is not in the lamp itself but in the Blessed Sacrament within the Tabernacle, whose presence it denotes and signifies.
The little red lamp also stands as something of a sentinel, like a little foot-soldier close to the Lord. And in this sense, it tells us something – that we, too, are called to be sentinels who remain close to the Lord; not only in spirit, but in reality – for the Lord patiently waits there for us to come visit Him.
And so the little red lamp is something of a beacon, a spiritual lighthouse casting its gentle glow across the ocean of the world and calling us toward it and promising safety and certainty amidst the reefs and rocks of daily life.