Reaching into the Dark and Finding Light

The excitement of the season is blunted, by the mere fact that so many are grieving and filled with a sense of loss in the face of Covid-19. Nonetheless, the stars and planets continue to invite us to look up and look out into the darkness, and there discover and become transfixed by the wonders there.

For a broader perspective I turn to Marv Hiles, who once wrote:

“In these weeks when we mark earth’s completed seasons, when months and years look backward and forward, and we sit astride the boundary of time and untime, there comes a moment, no longer than the raising of a glass, when earth, sun and seasons are renewed and we begin again the hours which link our birth, life and death in a Mystery beyond knowing.”

(December 2, All the Days of My Life, Daybook Papers I. Iona Center, Healdsburg, CA, 2005)

This year not only are the planets in conjunction, perhaps signifying the dawning of a new age, but we are in the season of ending and beginning the year’s season and cycles. With the Winter Solstice, on the 21st, we re-start the journey. Isn’t a curious coincidence that not one but two miraculous vaccines have been developed for our overcoming common threat—Covid-19—since the Equinox last spring? Nonetheless infections and deaths continue, seemingly unabated, measured by all our failing attempts to control and reign in the pandemic.

Through it all we are somehow beginning to recognize new ways to learn through or be in synch with our environment and with the galactic movements of earth and stars as the sun is now revealed at its lowest and most southern point in the evening sky in the Northern Hemisphere that we may begin our cycle round the sun once more.

As Advents go, it’s all been so fast and feeling so abbreviated and strange as all the markers of the usual concerts and reunions have been postponed for another year when it is “safer” for us to be with others. Thus the sense of the season seems to be nothing more or nothing less than our memories of wonders of days gone by, perhaps triggered by the presence of an evergreen tree decorated with lights; and, of loved ones and those we see no more having entered the land of light, we find ourselves reaching out for connection.

We reach out into darkness in the hopes of finding something we can bet our lives on and something on which we can start over in this strange time. Speaking to this preculiarity, my favorite Anglican, Madeleine L’Engle once wrote:

“Art for me is the great integrated. and I understand Christianity as I understand art. I understand Christmas as I understand Bach’s ‘Sleepers Awake’ or ‘Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring’; as I understand Braque’s clowns, Blake’s poetry. And I understand it when I am able to pray with the mind in heart, as Theophan the Recluse advised. When we pray with mind in heart, subside and nightside are integrated, we begin to heal and we come close to the kind of understanding which can accept an unacceptable Christianity. When I am able to pray with mind in the heart, I am joyfully able to affirm the irrationality of Christmas.

This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason.
There’d have been no room for the child.”

—from The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle, Crossroad, 1977, p. 21,27

L’Engle captures the inherent contradictions and irrationalities of our precarious situation. The rising of hope, the coming of light and all of this amidst the darkness of pandemic and sorrow, of curtailments and confusions. I am finally entering the real depth and the real in Advent: that which has both come, and is coming and no doubt will come again, into our hearts and lives. Whether we be Christian or otherwise it seems that our best position is to remain open, faithful and trusting in the possibilities.

So we come to the holidays and in another 10 days the end of one of hardest years many of us have ever known. I believe we can with all true willingness give up the pain and sorrow of losses faced in the past year. We can indeed, ready ourselves for a new year as we welcome a new leadership to the country and a new possibility for us all to “get it right” in the next year. I send you my warmest greetings and wish for you a healthy, safe, peace-filled and gentle season.

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