Of the Dark


“I said to my Soul, be still and let the dark come upon you which shall be the darkness of God.” T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

In late November, or at this time of the year, the Earth conspires it seems against the vitality of the created order. Plants have gone to seed. Leaves are falling scuttling down city streets blown by an indifferent wind. The earth is tired of life, tired of the burden of fruitfulness. We say in the burial rite in the church, “blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest from their labors.” As the light of day fades, and the darkness encroaches, it is time for the earth to rest.

In days long past, the ancients gathered at this time of the year and with ritual fervor built fires at night, either to ward off the dark, or to invite the lengthening light to come once again and renew the life cycle of earth… or both. Perhaps our excessive use of lights at Christmas is an echo of this ancient practice. In the modern western Christian tradition we associate God, and the things of God with light. But God is also the God of the dark… sleep, and rest, and death, all equal parts to the exquisite becoming of existence.

I wonder if in the mind of the ancient at this darkening time of year, if there were a moment of doubt that the light was finally finished, that the coming dark might be the end…. that this would be the time, the year, that all things fall apart. Modern medicine tells us that anxiety and depression spikes this time of year…. It is the coming dark; I’m sure of it. Our bodies, our psyches remember and know.

Our faith compels us; nature teaches us, to hope for, to expect the coming of the light once again… to take heart, that the earth will once again tilt on her axis and invite the renewing warmth of the sun to bring about the creation’s juvenescence… once again…. we hope… but for now, be still, and let the dark come upon you… and do not fear…. because there is nothing to fear for this darkness is the darkness of God.

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