Dark

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Luke 1:46b-55; I Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

“WHEN IT IS DARK ENOUGH YOU CAN SEE THE STARS” –an old Persian saying

“There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. …He said, ‘I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness…”

(John 1: 6-8, 23).

Our lives begin in the dark and they’ll end in the dark. During the interim, most of us try to avoid the “dark.” We run from the darkness of conflict, fear and humiliation. We experience great pain in our lives as we lose family members or other loved ones, and it is difficult to deal with it. Change is scary and so we tend to postpone making big decisions. We know that loneliness is inevitable at some point in our lives, but usually we run away from it rather than embrace it.

Deep reflection on this passage reveals that it is in the “dark” where spiritual growth occurs. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24). Paradoxically, as we come to a place of reconciliation with that part of ourselves that does not like the dark, our true and whole spiritual self “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3) emerges. As we grow in the dark, we are able to bear witness to the light. John of the cross called it “luminous darkness.”

John O’Donohue, an Irish priest and poet, captured the idea in the following excerpt from a blessing he wrote entitled “For Light:”

Light cannot see inside things.

That is what the dark is for:

Minding the interior,

Nurturing the draw of growth

Through places where death

In its own way turns into life.

And when we come to search for God,

Let us first be robed in night.

As we live into experiences of pain, fear, disappointment and challenge, and even somehow with God’s grace learn to welcome them, we know we are in the chrysalis of the night. It is then we hear John’s voice crying in the wilderness for Christ’s coming. It is our voice, too.

Offered on December 14, 2014, by Bryan Fredrickson, contemplative thinker, lawyer, child of God.

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Johnna

I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

One thought on “Dark”

  1. Hi Bryan–thanks for this…”the chrysalis of the night” set me thinking of (and looking up) a quote I read years ago from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Though not completely relevant to your message here, it still stirs my soul: “I think it is not improbable that man, like the grub that prepares a chamber for the winged thing it never has seen but will be–that man may have cosmic destinies that he does not understand. And so beyond the vision of battling races and an impoverished earth I catch a glimpse of peace.”

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