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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Advent Day 16: Second Sight …

When we were children, most of us were good friends with mystery. The world was full of it and we loved it. Then as we grew older, we slowly accepted the indoctrination that mystery exists only to be solved. For many of us, mystery became an adversary; unknowing became a weakness. The contemplative spiritual life is an ongoing reversal of this adjustment. It is a slow and sometimes painful process of becoming “as little children” again, in which we first make friends with mystery and finally fall in love again with it. And in that love we find an ever increasing freedom to be who we really are in an identity that is continually emerging and never defined. We are freed to join the dance of life in fullness without having a clue about what the steps are. Continue reading “Advent Day 16: Second Sight …”

Advent Day 15: Choose Joy …

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.

Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many joy seems hard to find. They complain that their lives are sorrowful and depressing. What then brings the joy we so much desire? Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck? Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently from the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it. Continue reading “Advent Day 15: Choose Joy …”

Advent Day 13: When the Well Runs Dry …

I took a deep breath and looked to God above, begging for help with what felt like an insurmountable task: sitting still and being quiet. Slowly, as the deep breaths continued, inner stillness came. I began to notice my surroundings. In that moment, I saw everything as it was—beautiful, holy, God’s gift. My heart welled to the point that I thought it would leap out of my chest. I realized that the hunger I felt was my desire for God. For one solid hour, I breathed deeply in the silence and in being with God.

On that day, I touched something powerful: God within me, residing in the inner space that only God and I can access. I understood that holiness lived within me as much as it lived outside me in the beautiful surroundings of the retreat grounds. Continue reading “Advent Day 13: When the Well Runs Dry …”

Little Daily Miracles …

What is the meaning of life? That was all- a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.
— Virginia Woolf from To the Lighthouse

 

The Patience Of Ordinary Things

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be. Continue reading “Little Daily Miracles …”

Advent Meditation: Can You Hear The Angels Singing (Christmas Eve) …

Angels descending, bring from above,
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
— Fanny J. Crosby from She Wields a Pen (Blessed Assurance)

 

Hidden Beauty

Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb. Life wants to lead you from crumbs to angels, but this can happen only if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure. Continue reading “Advent Meditation: Can You Hear The Angels Singing (Christmas Eve) …”

Advent Meditation: Take Refuge In Silence …

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
—John O’Donohue from To Bless the Space Between Us

 

Be Still

The ancient psalmist plucked his strings
and sang a sentence sprung from you:
“Be still and know that I am God”

Be still, my soul, like a winter landscape
which is wrapped in the white prayer shawl
of silent snow fringed with icy threads. Continue reading “Advent Meditation: Take Refuge In Silence …”