Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
— David Whyte from The House of Belonging (Sweet Darkness)
We risk the life we’ve known to discover something new . . . The unknown territory will open before us only to the extent that we turn our whole being courageously toward it . . . And then we must venture wherever the road leads us, in spite of the dark, in spite of the quivering of our heart.
— Jack Kornfield from A New Set of Eyes by Paula D’Arcy
If we listen through our broken heart, love can gently point the way to a deeper understanding of how human life contains both darkness and light. At some point we realize that we still have choices: We will either open our heart to be healed, or we will close down to avoid the pain.
— Paula D’Arcy from Winter of the Heart: Finding Your Way through the Mystery of Grief
Signs and Wonders
Reading: Mark 13:24-37
Mystery is rarely comfortable. We want to understand what we are doing here, to see more clearly how God is at work, to know how the future will unfold. This Gospel passage confounds us, reminds us that God works in the darkness as well as in the daylight. We see this in the book of Isaiah, where God says through the prophet,
I will give you the treasures of darkness
and riches hidden in secret places,
so that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name. (45:3)
In her book The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ’s Coming—a beautiful reflection on Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany—Wendy M. Wright relates words given to her by a novice master of a Trappist monastery, who said, “To be a Christian does not mean knowing all the answers; to be a Christian means being willing to live in the part of the self where the question is born.” Advent brings this home in a fashion that may seem painfully direct but can also be tremendously freeing: it tells us that we cannot see everything, cannot know everything, cannot predict everything. It tells us that, ultimately, we live in mystery.
But it also tells us this: if we stay awake; if we open our eyes in the midst of our life, with all of its wildness and wonders, then we will see: something is coming. Drawing closer. Stealing home.
— Jan Richardson from Through the Advent Door
A shadow is never created in darkness. It is born of light. We can be blind to it and blinded by it. Our shadow asks us to look at what we don’t want to see.
― Terry Tempest Williams from When Women Were Birds
Light Moving in the Darkness
It’s not the darkness itself that we must understand. It’s the force behind the darkness and within the darkness…the force moving through life that we must know.
This is the great passage: to see deep into our own nature by meeting its reflection in everything around us. To swim with something very big. To allow the Universe to love us and to love deeply in return…to allow this story to trace itself through the chapters of our life. To live within the miracle.
— Paula D’Arcy from Stars at Night: When Darkness Unfolds as Light
I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.
― Hafiz from I Heard God Laughing
Scientists say we are made of stars, and I believe them, although my upper arms look like hell. Maybe someday the stars will reabsorb me. Maybe, as fundamentalist Christians have shared with me, I will rot in hell for all eternity, which I would hate, because I am very sensitive. Besides, I have known hell, and I have also known love. Love was bigger.
What comforts us is that, after we make ourselves crazy enough, we can let go inch by inch into just being here; every so often, briefly. There is flow everywhere in nature — glaciers are just rivers that are moving really, really slowly — so how could there not be flow in each of us? Or at least in most of us? When we detach or are detached by tragedy or choice from the tendrils of identity, unexpected elements feed us. There is weird food in the flow, like the wiggly bits that birds watch for in tidal channels. Protein and greens are obvious food, but so is buoyancy, when we don’t feel as mired in the silt of despair.
― Anne Lamott from Almost Everything
You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.
― Annie Dillard from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters
Darkness Is Where Incarnation Begins
Darkness is where incarnation begins. The gorgeous texts of Advent, christmas, and Epiphany shimmer with the light that God brings into our midst, as in the prologue to John’s Gospel: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:5). Yet if we lean too quickly toward the light, we miss seeing one of the greatest gifts this season has to offer us: that the deepest darkness is the place where God comes to us. In the womb, in the night, in the dreaming; when we are lost, when our world has come undone, when we cannot see the next step on the path; in all the darkness that attends our life, whether hopeful darkness or horrendous, God meets us. God’s first priority is not to do away with the dark but to be present to us in it. I will give you the treasures of darkness, God says in Isaiah 45:3, and riches hidden in secret places. For the christ who was born two millennia ago, for the christ who seeks to be born in us this day, the darkness is where incarnation begins.
Can we imagine the darkness as a place where God meets us—and not only meets us, but asks to take form in this world through us?
― Jan Richardson from This Luminous Darkness: Searching for Solace in Advent and Christmas
In the morning
when I began to wake,
it happened again–
that you, Beloved,
had stood over me all night
that as soon as I began to stir
you put your lips on my forehead
and lit the Holy Lamp
inside my heart.
― Hafiz from I Heard God Laughing
to drive out west,
the eyes level
the mind cleared;
the steering wheel
below the eye
the needed course
and the body
almost at tiptoe,
the breath held
and the eyes
a falling plume of sky;
the clear, pinpoint star
that just appeared
did not realize
you were following …
― David Whyte from Pilgrim
May you know serenity
When you are called
To enter the house of suffering.
May a window of light always surprise you.
May you be granted the wisdom
To avoid false resistance;
When suffering knocks on the door of your life,
May you glimpse its eventual gifts.
May you be able to receive the fruits of suffering.
May memory bless and protect you
With the hard-earned light of past travail;
To remind you that you have survived before
And though the darkness now is deep,
You will soon see approaching light.
— John O’Donohue from To Bless the Space Between Us
- Preparing for Christmas
- The Darkness
- Threshold Of Winter
- Born of a Star
- A Celebration of Winter Solstice
- The One Who Waited
- Sanctuaries That Emerge From The Magnificent Stream
- The Longest Night
- Blessed Are You Who Bear the Light
- Journey from Darkness into Light
- Winter Has A Gift To Give
- The Dawn Is Coming
- The Tree That Survived The Winter
- Rest: The Conversation Between What We Love To Do And How We Love To Be
- Illuminating The Darkness Of Difficult Times
- The Path of Descent
- God Comes To You Disguised As Your Life
- Creator of the Stars
- Psalm Of An Emerging Emmanuel
- Winter Solstice
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