Winter months are cruel. I can make my way through sharp winds, mounds of dreary slush, and sheets of menacing ice. But the darkness often deflates my spirits, leaving me longing for more light and signs of green shoots emerging from the earth. This is why I keep a photo of a stained-glass window at my local United Church taped inside my bedroom closet. It’s a reminder that there is more “light”— hope, kindness, and love—than I may see.

The stained-glass window depicts the 1800s painting “The Light of the World.” Jesus holds an illuminated lantern; his other hand is poised to knock on a heavy, closed door. A star shines in the inky night sky. The image is rich in symbolism, and so is the story behind how the window came to be in Toronto’s Roncesvalles United Church.

Decades ago, the church’s then custodian paid for the window as a tribute to his young son who died in World War I. A few years later, a fire ravaged the church. Only one stained-glass window remained: “The Light of the World.” The Rev. Anne Hines of Roncesvalles United told me: “I believe that window carries an energy and legacy of love.” 

A few years ago on a melancholy winter day, I attended a simple ceremony to light the stained-glass window. I shivered on the city street outside the church, looking up as someone flicked on the switch that lit up the image from inside. Today, the light is always left on in the evening.

The illuminated window has become a beacon for me. On a few occasions when I have struggled with a dark night of the soul, or how to navigate my way through one of life’s rougher patches, I’ve made the short walk from my home to the church. I bathe in the window’s glow and remind myself that I can open metaphorical doors to find more light. I remind myself of all the goodness in the world. On his Facebook page, spiritual author Parker J. Palmer encourages us to consider how we can be beacons. “None of us can provide all of the light the world needs,” he writes. “But every day, all of us can ask, ‘What kind of light can I be today?”’

 —Kathryn Dorrell

Kathryn Dorrell is editor of Mandate magazine. This article originally appeared in Mandate, February 2017. To find out more about Mandate and to subscribe, visit