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Summer 2012

A Remarkable Leader, An Exceptional Person: Dr. Timothy Cottrell Carries on ‘Iolani’s Legacy
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Summer 2012 - Department | St. Alban’s Minute

Holy Fire and The Bowl of Perfect Light

“When the day of Pentecost came, [the disciples] were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4, NRSV)

This is the story of Pentecost. It is a story of Fire, Holy Fire that is the very presence of God descending on the disciples gathered together. Fire is a primal element and vital to our existence.

Light has always from the earliest days of the Christian community, been a powerful symbol of the Triune God. It recalls God’s act of creation in calling forth light, on the first day. It recalls the light of God’s love flooding into a world darkened by alienation, violence and despair- a light that is warming, reconciling and healing. It recalls the light of the resurrected Christ bursting forth from the tomb to give new life to all who seek it. And it recalls the flame of the Holy Spirit, which kindles hope and love even in the darkest hour.

In ancient Hawaiian lore, the parable is also told that every child is born with a Bowl of Perfect Light :

“Each child born has at birth, a Bowl of perfect Light. If he tends his Light it will grow in strength and he can do all things—swim with the shark, fly with the birds, know and understand all things. If, however, he becomes envious or jealous, he drops a stone into his Bowl of Light and some of the Light goes out. Light and the stone cannot hold the same space. If he continues to put stones in the Bowl of Light, the Light will go out and he will become a stone. A stone does not grow, nor does it move. If at any time he tires of being a stone, all he needs to do is turn the bowl upside down and the stones will fall away and the Light will grow once more.”1


Though ancient Hawaiians and early Christians are, historically, vastly different, the symbolism of Light and its power to overcome the shadows of darkness is universal.

Stones, however, are also powerful symbols. We use them to lay foundations and build walls that can survive for thousands of years.  Stones are fundamental for the building blocks of our lives. They represent strength, comfort, and safety.

And there is our dilemma.

We must continue to carry forth the Light. Regardless of whether it is ʻIolani beginning a new chapter in her history with the welcome of Dr. Timothy Cottrell, the celebration our sesquicentennial, a change in employment, family situation, or any circumstance, we cannot  allow ourselves to become the stones that block the Light. Sometimes we are called to turn the bowl upside down. Our instinct wants to hold onto certain stones to be safe, comfortable, and secure. And the stones that form the foundation of our lives, such as faith, hope, love, and family are different. But other stones, the ones that go into the bowl- stones of jealousy, envy, selfish pride, arrogance—these stones do nothing but weigh us down in the journey and fill up our Bowl. These are stones that prevent us from growing.  

As we begin a new Chapter in our institutional life. May the Light of God’s presence and the Holy Spirit continue to guard and guide Headmaster Cottrell and the wonderful and blessed community of students, faculty, staff, parents, and friends who are ʻIolani.

The Rev. Daniel L. Leatherman

Kameʻekua, Kailiʻohe, et al. Tales from the Night Rainbow. Night Rainbow Pub. c1988. p. 18.