Advent Thoughts: The Gift of Darkness

In Mary the Word of God chose to be silent for the season measured by God. She, too, was silent; in her the light of the world shone in darkness. Today, in many souls, Christ asks that he may grow secretly, that he may be the light shining in the darkness. In the seasons of our Advent – waking, working, eating, sleeping, being – each breath is a breathing of Christ into the world.

Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God

As we journey on further into Advent, and come into Winter (a time of darker days and broader shadows), we are being given the opportunity to see in this time of pregnancy and birth the gift of darkness. Darkness is many things: it can be the absence of light; it can be the unrighteous acts and thoughts of people and institutions; and darkness can be the space and place where growth occurs. It is the latter to which I write as being a Gift from God.

Advent is a time of darkness as much as light and in this gift of darkness many things occur, things like death, life, growth and birth – all of these require darkness in order to reach fruition and fulfillment. Seeds in winter, seeds in the womb, and seeds in the soul…all need darkness to regenerate, rejuvenate and reinvigorate. Darkness is indeed necessary for transformation and therein lies the Gift.

We tend to focus only the negative aspects of darkness –as only the absence of light and a space and place where God does not dwell. But quite to the contrary, God dwells in darkness as much as light. God is at home in darkness for before the creation of the cosmos, there was darkness.

Yes, God is comfortable in darkness, we it seems not so much. In darkness, God works as freely as he does in light. In darkness we are forced to surrender (not resign) the known familiarity and comfort we find in light and enter into the discombobulating Unknown of darkness: the space of creation and transformation.

Advent is a time of darkness: Jesus gestating in a scared unmarried teenage girl, carrying around the Messiah within, living in the uncertainty of a time when women were more property than proper people, in a land under military and governmental occupation, scorned by those around her except her husband to be and most likely her parents.

In darkness, the Most High would overshadow (as in “ darken or cover in darkness”) Mary, planting deep within her the Holiest of Seeds. In darkness, Mary’s hope grew as did the Child. In darkness, Mary came to understand the power of God to alter the world and the entire created order.

Darkness can be good and a gift; in darkness, the chrysalis becomes the butterfly – altered and transformed. But most of us fear darkness…we fear the devious and deception, the uncouth and the evil that can arise from the darker spaces of our lives. We fear religious darkness – blind fundamentalism and rigidity forcing upon its followers a faith of fear rather than love. We fear the politics of darkness that lead people astray, oppress the poor, manipulate the naïve and foster power and greed at the expense of human freedom and dignity.

Advent is a time of re-creating and re-membering the birth of the holy Child. And it is this Child, that leads me to darkness (as well as light). As children gestate in the womb in utter darkness, growing in body and spirit, so too must we enter the darkness and let God gestate us. ‘In secret’ growth occurs that Christ may be “a light shining in the darkness.”

In the divine darkness, we are taught to trust the Sight that comes not from seeing with the eyes of our heads, but the eyes of our hearts. For when we see in this Way, the journeying into darkness becomes the Gift of new life: the very gift of God himself.

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