With the winter solstice comes an angle of the sun that a special group of people knew would create a rare moment at the Santa Barbara Mission,known as the “Time of Illumination.”
They gathered on the steps Saturday morning, a day before the actual solstice, with Father Larry Gosselin and faced the fiery red sky as the sun came up.
After prayers and the special burning of incense, the group of about 100 went inside for a mass with the church doors wide open.
The church remained in the dark for the most part. Only a couple of candles were lit, and a small light was used for readings.
As the sun rose during the mass, it reflected off the Pacific Ocean, across the city and through the church doors. There, it bounced off the baptismal fountain and shed light on the far wall of the church – first on the statue of the Virgin Mary, and within moments it moved to directly illuminate the crucifix and St. Barbara.
Some of those in the church saw the light shimmer as it moved through the building.
As this took place, there was a pause in the services for a reflection on the sight that only occurs at this time of the year, and when the skies are clear enough to let the sun through.
The Time of Illumination has been viewed by the priests for years but only recently has the event been opened to the public in the early morning hours.