St. Mary of the Angels
Advent Prayer Service #1
St. John of the Cross began his poem, “The Dark Night” with the words:
“One dark night.
fired with love’s urgent longings
--ah, the sheer grace!—
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.”
The home of our being may or may not be quiet as we begin this season of Advent, but we are invited
once again to step forth into the dark night in order to discover Jesus our Light in a new way. It is God’s love that calls us forth.
It is interesting that the day has many names to indicate its passage: pre-dawn, dawn, day, noon, evening,
dusk; but night has only its one name: night.
But this long night is mysterious, both comforting and frightening.
It can be that comforting time, when, after a busy, hectic day, quiet and calmness settle over us. I can remember in Jamaica, after the heat and glare of the day, I would walk around the football field
at night, feel the cool night air, and look up at the stars and become lost in the dark spaces between them. Night can also be frightening. At night thieves roam the streets,
hours of loneliness drag on and on, and nightmares can shatter sleep. It is in
the night that I am most apt to wake up suddenly choked by anxieties about the day ahead.
Whether comforting or frightening, the darkness is the background for light to be searched for and
seen. Darkness sharpens awareness of light.
When we begin this season, we know that there is much darkness in our world, and, perhaps, in ourselves:
Darkness of war, of hunger, of poverty, of death.
Darkness of the economy, of lost jobs and limited opportunities.
Darkness of fear and insecurity.
Darkness of family conflicts and divisions.
Darkness of political and religious ideologies.
Darkness of not being understood, of being left out, not welcomed.
We do not run away from this darkness. The poet, T.S.
“I said to my soul, be still, and let the
dark come upon you
which shall be the darkness of God.”
It is important to stay with the darkness because God is in the darkness. There He will be found as
Hope. Hope does not mean that things will get better, but that within the darkness
there is that light of presence, which makes all the difference. Just as the
darkness shows up the stars, so darkness shows the Light of God in Christ, who comes to us unseen.
King George VI, in his Christmas broadcast of 1939, when England had been plunged into the darkness
of war, quoted these words from a play of M.L. Haskins: a prayer was addressed to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown,” and the man replied: “Go out into the darkness
and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
As we consider darkness around us and within us, where or how is God calling us?
In my homily on Sunday, I spoke of watching, working, waiting.
For your reflection: In the darkness: What are you called
to watch for?
What are you called to work for?
What are you called to wait for?