GOD OF DAY AND GOD OF DARKNESS
On Ash Wednesday, as I read Chapter 49 of the Rule of Benedict on the “Observance of Lent,” I came across these words in the commentary written by Joan Chittister, OSB: “We open ourselves to Lent because we want to be open to the God of darkness as well as the God of Light.”
I found myself pondering the question: “Do I really desire to be open to the God of darkness, to seek the God of darkness in my life?” The reality that darkness is an inherent part of the human experience is indisputable, but do I seek in my darkness, or in the darkness of the world or of others in my life, a God of Darkness? While we often sing of the “God of Day and God of Darkness,” I cannot say that I have really sought to know that God.
Today, on Passion/Palm Sunday, we stand in a liturgical moment before one of the darkest points in human history. In the course of this week we will witness the betrayal of deep friendship; the denial and disowning of that which gives life meaning; the sheer violence of humanity in the face of goodness and truth, the ravages of jealousy, greed and power; and finally the very crucifixion of Love itself!
Where is God in this? Was there a God of Darkness present and sustaining in that time over 2,000 years ago? Is there a God of Darkness present and sustaining and suffering in these same realities in our world today? The lengths of inhumanity have not changed all that much, only become more sophisticated.
We do know there is a God of Darkness, because each of us has experienced the grace and holiness of darkness: from our very beginnings as we each waited in the darkness of the womb for birth to beckon us; from the many winters as we witness the emergence of new springs; from the very personal moments in our lives where growth, strength, graced vulnerability, failure, and new life surprised us. We know there is a God of Darkness who is tender, compassionate, vulnerable, disarming, challenging, sustaining and faithful. This is the God whose heart aches with the suffering world, and each of us in it. This is the God who says through Isaiah, “I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places so that you may know that it is I, your God, who calls you by your name.” (Is. 45:3). Yet, this is rarely the God we seek.
On this day, Passion/Palm Sunday we stand on the threshold of a Holy Week….in procession we literally “walk” into this week. Before you take that walk, take time to stand before your own darkness: of fear, uncertainty, illness, depression, loneliness, grief, lost hopes and shattered dreams, helplessness, failure, vulnerability – whatever form darkness takes at this time in your life. Stand before the darkness of our world: of violence, greed, abuse, war, homelessness, poverty, racism…and all the other “isms” we could name. Stand before the darkness of the mystery of Passion we will remember and celebrate this week.
Then, be intentional about that walk. Let the crossing of the threshold of this week be a sacred moment. Allow it to be a movement within your own heart inviting you to what is perhaps a vast leap into the Heart-ache of God.
The poet Caryll Houselander says:
God will enter into your night
as the ray of sun enters into the dark, hard earth,
driving right down to the roots of the tree,
and there, unseen, unknown, unfelt in the darkness,
filling the tree with life,
a sap of fire will suddenly break out,
high above that darkness,
into living leaf and flame.
May the God of Day and God of Darkness be your companion this week.
Kathy McNany, OSB