Time To Go Into The Dark (Winter Solstice) …

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

 

Flow

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 feeling
that you, Beloved,
had stood over me all night
keeping watch,
that feeling
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

 

Star

Remember
to practice
the nobility
that comes
with promise,

to drive out west,
the eyes level
or lifted
the mind cleared;
the steering wheel
invisible
below the eye
but still
charting
the needed course

and the body
almost at tiptoe,
leaning toward
the windscreen,

the breath held
and the eyes
a-shiver for
a falling plume of sky;

the clear, pinpoint star
that just appeared
above Leenane,

one you
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

 

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Hope (Advent Meditation) …

Because when all is said and done,
the last word is Immanuel — God With Us.
— Isaiah 8:10, The Message

 

Hope and Fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Invite one to stay. Invite one to stay.
— Maya Angelou from Sacred Threshold by Paula D’Arcy

 

A Pilgrimage of Discovery

There are no manuals for the construction of the individual you would like to become. You are the only one who can decide this and take up the lifetime of work that it demands. This is a wonderful privilege and such an exciting adventure. To grow into the person that your deepest longing desires is a great blessing. If you can find a creative harmony between your soul and your life, you will have found something infinitely precious. You may not be able to do much about the great problems of the world or to change the situation you are in, but if you can awaken the eternal beauty and light of your soul, you will bring light wherever you go. The gift of life is given to us for ourselves and also to bring peace, courage, and compassion to others. Continue reading “Hope (Advent Meditation) …”

Advent Day 12: Don’t Hesitate …

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. 

— Mary Oliver from Swan: Poems and Prose Poems

 

If It Is Not Too Dark

Go for a walk, if it is not too dark.
Get some fresh air, try to smile.
Say something kind
To a safe-looking stranger, if one happens
by. Continue reading “Advent Day 12: Don’t Hesitate …”

Autumn Sunset …

Autumn in my part of the world is a season of bounty and beauty. It’s also a season of steady decline—and, for some of us, a slow slide into melancholy. The days become shorter and colder, the trees shed their glory, and summer’s abundance starts to decay toward winter’s death.

I’m a professional melancholic, and for years my delight in the autumn color show quickly morphed into sadness as I watched the beauty die. Focused on the browning of summer’s green growth, I allowed the prospect of death to eclipse all that’s life-giving about fall and its sensuous delights.

Then I began to understand a simple fact: All the “falling” that’s going on out there is full of promise. Seeds are being planted and leaves are being composted as Earth prepares for yet another uprising of green. Continue reading “Autumn Sunset …”

Advent Meditation: God Birthed Grace Upon The Earth …

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people …
— Titus 2:11

Grace call us into a humility that seeks to honor the grace of God to forgive and restore us. Grace calls us into a humility that seeks to honor the multiple relationships throughout our overlapping households or spheres of community. The training power of grace may be its capacity to illumine the image of God in another. We pray for God to give us God’s own love for the other when we recognize that our love is in dire need of grace. Continue reading “Advent Meditation: God Birthed Grace Upon The Earth …”

Advent Meditation: The Preciousness of Every Moment …

There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life. Continue reading “Advent Meditation: The Preciousness of Every Moment …”

The Price (Good Friday Meditation) …

The suffering itself is not so bad; it’s the resentment against suffering that is the real pain.
— Allen Ginsberg from The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion

 

There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. Continue reading “The Price (Good Friday Meditation) …”