Guest Post: Alina Sayre “Illumination: Turning Darkness Into Light”
Today’s post is brought to you by a splendid new author and friend of mine, Alina Sayre. Enjoy!
The word means “to brighten with light; to make luminous or shining.” It comes from the Latin word lumen, light.
It also means the art of illustrating a manuscript (often a religious book), the pictures intended to magnify the words and inspire the reader with beauty.
I first met an illuminated manuscript on a drizzly study-abroad tour in Dublin, Ireland. The Book of Kells, a collection of the four Gospels compiled between the 6th and 9th centuries AD, still shines with Celtic knots and spirals, painstakingly detailed in gold and brilliant paints. Through a time when Viking raiders were razing villages and torching churches, the Book survived as a tribute to God’s overarching power and dazzling beauty. But more than just delighting my eyes, this Book captivated me with its symbolism: the universal Gospels told through culture-specific designs. The voices of individual monks bringing their own experiences of faith to the great Song. Many different life stories, all telling the eternal Redemption Story.
It should come as no great surprise, then, that my first book, a fantasy novel for ages 9-14, is called The Illuminator’s Gift. Ellie, a twelve-year-old orphan, lives a life of rejection and fear until the night she receives a gift in a dream from a man named Ishua. This gift leads to Ellie’s calling as a manuscript illuminator. Making art may seem insignificant in a battle against the forces of evil, but it heals Ellie’s past by giving her purpose and vision. And Ellie’s gift is not for her benefit alone, but also to fill others’ lives with light, spreading hope by healing and inspiring others. In the end, it is her illuminations that make all the difference.
Manuscript illumination is well beyond the bounds of my own artistic talent. My sketching is limited to stick figures. Yet the symbolism of illumination remains dear to my heart. I was thirteen when my father died of cancer, and it tore my world to shreds. It was in the tormented years following, in the chaos of grief, that I discovered my passion for storytelling. Writing was—and remains–God’s gift to me, helping me make sense of the confusion and bring light to the shadowy, cobwebby corners of my soul. But like Ellie, I am not the only recipient of this grace of illumination. I see storytelling as my candle to carry in life’s sometimes-dark tunnel. If I write something that lets someone know they are not alone, then God has blessed us both, and given us “a crown of beauty instead of ashes” (Isaiah 61:3).
You, too, carry a candle. It may not be manuscript illustration or novel writing, but illumination means telling your own story, by whatever means God has given you, in order to invest others with hope. Your candle might be making beauty through art—painting, sketching, dancing, knitting, composing. Or it might be making beauty through life—keeping teacups at the ready for unexpected guests, offering a tissue to the girl sniffling in church, sending a note to a college student far from home. It might be both. Because illumination simply means the redemption of suffering. It is where God transforms fear, rejection, grief, abandonment, struggle–turning loss into wholeness, pain into beauty, darkness into light.
Alina Sayre is the author of The Illuminator’s Gift, a fantasy novel blending adventure and faith for ages 9-14 (and the young at heart). When she isn’t writing, she’s fixing other people’s grammar or teaching middle schoolers to love Shakespeare. When she grows up, she would like to live in a castle with a large library. She blogs at www.alinasayre.com.