All new life seems to begin in darkness: the seed within the earth, the growing child in the womb, the first day of creation.
We know this place, this source. We all go there daily for renewal when we sleep. Sleep, that ‘activity’ we spend a third of our life doing where we lay our body down, close our senses and ultimately lose consciousness. That ‘place’, that ‘activity’ of sleep, of loss of consciousness, of quiet and stillness- it allows new forces to enter and restore us. We go into darkness when we sleep and find what renews our bodies and our energy.
Why would it be any different for our soul and spirit?
This is what we do when we meditate and pray: We go into darkness. We close our eyes and our ears and center ourselves not in outer sound and light but in our own inner world. And, at first, it is silent and dark. Those who persevere await the moment where they become aware of the presence of that light and that ‘word’ which is the weaving radiance that permeates all reality. They await the coming of those spiritual forces from which our true being emanates. In deeper prayer and meditation we ultimately await the coming of a being, the One who makes all things new. That is the promise of consciously walking into a practice of entering the darkness.
But what about all the ‘darkness’ we encounter in our lives, in our world? What about the soul-crushing experiences of the last weeks where we have heard two grand jury statements in a row that let peace-keepers that killed unarmed individuals go un-prosecuted. What about all the violence, selfishness and spiritual blindness that permeates human culture in our age? Does this darkness have any connection to new life, to renewal? Does it have something only it can bring us? If we enter deeply into the painful, dark parts of our world is there anything good that can be found?
The great secret to the presence of all this darkness is the power it has to call forth our ‘light’, our moral conscience, our sense for truth and justice, our commitment to bring about transformation in ourselves and in our society. It’s not a given, of course. We can fall prey to the darkness, join it on paths of bitterness and hatred and the tantalizing story of ‘us vs. them’. But something else becomes possible as well as tragedies and injustices have a way of drawing out our best qualities, our moral, compassionate and engaged hearts. The light of the stars only shines when it is night. Darkness will come our way until our best selves are called forth and “Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” (Philippians 2). Darkness truly is the source of new life, of light.
The earth knows this secret too. This is the spiritual secret of Winter: the earth enters the quiet darkness of Winter to receive forces of renewal on its darkest night. During the season of Advent we can connect to this cosmic path into darkness and its silent stillness. We can be helped into learning true meditation and prayer by the earth herself. And we can join with her in awaiting the birth of the inner light in the depths of this darkness.
Who would expect it so?
From darkness light is brought,
Life rises out of Death,
And Something comes from Naught.
– Angelus Silesius
Where do you go for inner and outer renewal? How do you find replenishment? Share your thoughts with us…
Patrick Kennedy is a priest in the Christian Community, movement for religious renewal in the Washington D.C. area (www.ccgwb.org). Find out more here: http://www.thechristiancommunity.org.
These thoughts continue the reflections on the secret power of darkness begun by Carol Kelly here.