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 21: Sanctuaries That Emerge From The Magnificent Stream (Winter Solstice) …

On the scale of our human history, rituals like putting up Christmas trees, lighting menorahs, reading Hafiz, and baking rice dumplings are new. We, humans, have celebrated the earthly repercussions of our orbit longer than we’ve celebrated virtually anything. Before Christmas and Hanukkah, before monotheism or any other kind of theism, our ancestors were staring up at the stars, trying to gather clues about the changing of the seasons, the passing of time, and what the darkness might bring. The idea of marking the longest, coldest night with the knowledge that the warmth and light is not too far off, that is ancient. And no matter where we’re from, what religion we are, or to what ethnic group we belong, we can be sure that our ancestors, all of our ancestors, contemplated Earth’s place in the universe with awe. For them, it was sacred. And it still can be for us. Even more so because science has brought us a deeper understanding of the mystery and beauty of nature than our ancestors could have ever dreamed. Continue reading “Advent Day 21: Sanctuaries That Emerge From The Magnificent Stream (Winter Solstice) …”

Autumn Meditation: Letting Go …

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald from The Great Gatsby

The Work of Autumn

In autumn we learn more about ourselves, perhaps, than in any other season. Having provided the harvest, Nature now makes everything bare. In this season Nature lets go of its abundant creation of the past year in a grand final display. Autumn marks the end of the growing season – a turning inward, a falling away of outer-directed energy. Leaves turn color and drop. The old leaves go back to the earth, enriching it to promote the coming of new leaves, a new harvest. Continue reading “Autumn Meditation: Letting Go …”

Blessed Are You Who Bear the Light …

My earliest memories of creation are primarily of light. They come to me in a kaleidoscope of recollection, of light reflecting off the waters of northern Canadian lakes where I spent time as a boy or of the clarity of the night skies above those same waters. I often would sit mesmerized by the sun’s setting colours or by the immediacy of starlight in the dark. I do not believe that I am unusual in this, nor do I think that the wilderness of the context was necessary to the depth of the impression, for I also remember light in the city, glistening off the metallic chrome of cars or dappling through the white curtains of my nursery window. In fact it is important that these memories are not unique, for the experience of the light that is in creation is a universal gift. Continue reading “Blessed Are You Who Bear the Light …”

The Meadow (Summer Solstice Meditation) …

I hear the unblown flute,
In the deep summer shadows …
Basho

 

As we walk into words that have waited for us to enter them, so
the meadow, muddy with dreams, is gathering itself together

and trying, with difficulty, to remember how to make wildflowers.
Imperceptibly heaving with the old impatience, it knows

for certain that two horses walk upon it, weary of hay.
The horses, sway-backed and self important, cannot design

how the small white pony mysteriously escapes the fence every day.
This is the miracle just beyond their heavy-headed grasp, Continue reading “The Meadow (Summer Solstice Meditation) …”

Seeking the Light: Advent Prayers …

Advent is the perfect time to clear and prepare the Way. Advent is a winter training camp for those who desire peace. By reflection and prayer, by reading and meditation, we can make our hearts a place where a blessing of peace would desire to abide and where the birth of the Prince of Peace might take place.
— Edward Hays from A Pilgrim’s Almanac

Continue reading “Seeking the Light: Advent Prayers …”