It’s deep into November and the succession of grey days has begun. As early as four o’clock, the darkness descends like a stone and it seems like all I have to do is not pay attention for just as moment and when I lift my eyes the day has become completely void of light. This is the beginning of the dark time of the year. It can lead to depression, malaise, crabbiness and just plain loss of hope. We really won’t see a succession of light filled days for another four or five months. There is the rhythm of the world. There is the rhythm of nature but there is also the rhythm of the Church in this “dark of the year”.
The real temptation at this dawn of winter and death of all that’s green is to become engulfed by the totalness of it all. Nothing grows, there is no color, the trees and shrubs are “obviously dead”. It just seems natural to slip into a loss of optimism and become immersed in the apparent demise of all that’s living around us. The natural rhythm of the Church, though, has already responded to this “false scenario” of death. At the beginning of the month the Church has already started to prepare us to see the light in the dark that is coming to surround us. As the world moves into winter and the seasons change to the dark time of the year, the Church bids us to recall those of us who have passed from light into dark only to arrive at the eternal light. In the heart of the darkness we are charged to observe a period which anticipates the incarnation of the great light that will carry them and us forever home and defeat the darkness once and for all. In the rhythm of our faith the Church surrounds us with liturgy and remembrance which touches the wholeness of our lives, their span, and not just what we do on Sunday.
The first of November is the beginning of that remembrance, recollection and celebration. This is the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls is November 2. As the year descends into what seems like a permanent gray we believers are summoned to look toward the light that we know is the reality we seek. At the end of November we move into Advent and a real sense that the light we are seeking is drawing closer as we make the journey together. At the end of December the light Himself becomes manifest for all of us and we celebrate one of the two most joy filled times of the year, right there in the midst of the darkness. The celebration continues as we journey with the Magi in seeking the child for eight more days and arrive at Epiphany. We are reminded that those richer, wiser and older than we are have made this journey a “life event” with the finding of the divine child as its culmination.
So, the Church teaches us, in a very real way, that “the darkness” is neither permanent nor reality. In fact, the only reality for us who are believers is The Light. The Liturgical seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany show us that the Light still exists and is not a temporary condition but something that is always present whether we can see it or not. We are invited to celebrate, as community, and join with others who have a keen awareness of this “unseen reality”. We are the body of believers and the ones who live out and animate the coming of the light even when we are immersed in the darkness. All Saints and All Souls reiterate this and even those who have preceded us remind that this is fact not fantasy. Saint Faustina herself observes; “How beautiful is the spiritual world, that already here on earth we commune with the saints!” Jesus also reminds us that the kingdom of light is not in some far off realm. He pointedly teaches us: “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.” (Lk 17:20-21) So we are dwellers in the light all the time. The enemy would have us deceived that when the cycles of nature bring the darkness it feels like a permanent condition.
We are charged to see the Light always and to boldly herald its coming for the rest of the world, to call the darkness a lie and teach that to others. As we look on the winter landscape and see death all around pay special attention to the trees. In the grip of winter nothing looks deader than a tree. They are void of green and not a hint of life is visible. But we know that the death of any tree is really an illusion. As soon as the temps change the life force in any tree begins to move, unseen to any of us and ready to burst forth when we least expect it.
Though the darkness might be what we see, it is more important to focus on what we don’t see. In the unseen reality of spiritual life light is present and is a dynamic nurturing force. Do you have the courage to pay more attention to the reality that is unseen rather than what is observable all around you? In the dark of the year be a gift to the world and “bring the light”. Take advantage of all that the Church and its Liturgy can offer you. Teach your friends and those around you that darkness is only a temporary condition and was never reality in the first place. “While you still have the light, believe in the light and you will become sons of the light.” (Jn 12:36).
Copyright©2009, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved
Learn more about Kathryn’s views at: wwww.atravelersview.org
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