Today is the shortest day of the year. But as someone also reminded me it has the longest night of the year as well. Darkness and the night have often symbolized fear and loneliness, as in St. John of the Cross’s famous work entitled The Dark Night of the Soul. However, if you read this classic mystical work, you quickly learn that darkness is not something we survive but something we go through, and in the going we are transformed from our own fears to the generative power of darkness.
Darkness can hold us even when the world and our own lives seem so broken, especially at Christmastime. Patriarchy has tried to tell us that the darkness is a feminine power that leads us into chaos and evil. The first book of Genesis drives this home: “the earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep.” (Gen 1:2) The implication was that darkness was empty and fearful, and God made the world light and meaningful. How wrong this is! There was something to the universe before God: darkness is not void, darkness is hidden, darkness is a mystery that, when we surrender to it, can transform us into a new creation. Babies are created in the darkness of the womb, dreams come to us in the darkness of sleep, mystery has a hold on all of us even if we cannot explain how it does.
As we sang last Sunday to the tune of “Little Town of Bethlehem”:
“O Holy Darkness, loving Womb, who nurtures and creates,
Sustain us through the longest night with dreams of open gates,
We move inside to mystery that in our center dwells,
Where streams of richest beauty flow from sacred, living wells”
Joy can be found in darkness, if only in the comfort of being safe from the harsh light of our struggling world. As Mark Nepo pined, “Joy is the transformation of our suffering, not the escape of all we have to face.”
Happy Solstice, dear ones. Tomorrow’s daylight will be more than today.
Yours Always, Rev. John