Tree lights the darkness

First campus Christmas tree lighting offers a deeper message for this holiday season

Tayler Reviere Verninas | Editor in Chief | The USD Vista

Torero Program Board (TPB) kicked off its annual Winter Wonderland with the first Christmas Tree Lighting at the Paseo de Colachis overlook on Tuesday, Nov. 28. Speakers from Associated Students (AS), TPB, and President James T. Harris III were in attendance to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season at the University of San Diego. 

TPB Chair Caitlin Teno introduced AS President Will Tate and the AS graduate student advisor Novien Yarber,  who started the night with a speech explaining that the event was more than coming together in community to celebrate the holiday season.

“It is also about coming together and bringing light to our campus and to our world,” Tate said. “When I think about tonight’s theme, Light Out of Darkness, I think about people who have dedicated their life to justice, peace, and mercy.” 

In honor of the Light Out of Darkness theme, candles were passed around to the large group of over 150 people, including students, faculty, staff, and local community members. As people lit their candles, President Harris offered a statement that spoke about the deeper significance for lighting USD’s new Christmas tree. 

“When the world around us seems hollow, apathetic, and dark we are able to rise up even in the midst of doubt and strain,” Harris said. “Through the grace of God we rise up and defend the forgotten, the neglected, and the silenced. Confronted by the darkness of injustice, incivility, inequity, and intolerance, we rise up to light the way for others.”

Harris stated that as changemakers who confront humanity’s urgent challenges, we are called to be the light.

“The light of insight and understanding in the dark places of the world,” Harris said. “The light that not only brings illumination but also brings warmth. Each one of us at this university of beauty, goodness, and truth can be the illumination and warmth that this world so desperately needs. At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a Savior whose light shines above us all and in turn our light must shine before others for the glory of God. So USD, so Toreros, it is time for us all to shine.” 

This marked the cue for the lighting of the 20-foot Christmas tree that overlooks Paseo de Colachis. After Harris’ speech, Monsignor Dillabough offered a short blessing. 

Tate also challenged those in attendance to commit to growing deeper in their understanding to loving one another.

“The national issues are complex in nature and a deal of us might not understand them in their entirety,” Tate said. “But that should not deter us from advocating and standing with our brothers and sisters who are affected. The message of Christmas is that no matter how dark things may get or seem, God can find a way to bring light out of darkness, joy out of sorrow, and life from death. So I invite you to join me in bringing forth light, joy, and life to the world. Thank you!” 

Attendees were able to enjoy an assortment of holiday treats and drinks, as well as a performance from a group of carolers. Two massive, blue lounge chairs created by members of the USD community were also dedicated to the new space near the Christmas tree. They will serve as comically-large lounge chairs for community members to enjoy at USD, even beyond the holiday  festivities.

Junior Josh Rementeria stated why he attended the Christmas tree lighting.

“I’m a big fan of the Christmas season,” Rementeria said. “It was cool that USD was doing a big thing for it, and I didn’t have anything better to do.”

Rementeria reflected on what he thought about the political and religious implications of the speakers’ speeches.

“It’s important especially this time of year to think of other people who are less fortunate than us, which can be in terms of being subject to political oppression in whatever form that takes,” Rementeria said. “I think it always a good reminder to have that; it is cool that they could tie that into the holidays.”

What passersby may have viewed as a Christmas tree lighting ceremony was actually much more. The ceremony was a political and spiritual metaphor for members of the San Diego community to consider at the start of this year’s holiday season.