Saturday, January 28, 2012

Darkness, my friend...

I recently went on retreat to Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery in South Carolina. The day begins at 3am as I walked to the church, shrouded in darkness. Here is a brief reflection on the darkness.


During my stay at the monastery, the darkness was my friend. Not darkness in any metaphorical sense of the word. Literally, the absence of light at 3am was a friend and companion during the week. Perhaps it’s because, as human beings with ample access to light sources, we don’t spend considerable amounts of time in the darkness. When the sun falls below the horizon, an incandescent light bulb rises in our living rooms. Instead of relying on the soft and glistening light of the moon, fluorescent bulbs illuminate our streets and our highways. It seems I have forgotten how much of a gift the darkness of the night truly is.

Without the oppression of both the sun and the copious amount of light pollution from a big city, I was able to see an innumerable amount of stars in the night sky…stars dancing and twinkling, stars shooting or standing still. The tapestry of the sky was greater than any of the wondrous works of Renaissance art. As Barbara Brown Taylor says, “it’s a sacramental sky.”

And I believe that. I truly do. When we are able to see facets of creation in a new light, so to speak, we see the beauty of God incarnate in all things. The infinitude of space, ever expanding as dark matter and dark energy continue to create the universe, speaks of a God so large and beyond comprehension. Yet, the vesicles in a leaf and the ripples on a pond speak of a God so intimately present in the very molecules that constitute our existence.

Walking to the church in the darkness gave me new eyes. Far from robbing me of sight, it granted me sight. I paid attention to where I walked. I saw shadows on the ground…shadows different from those created during the day. My warm breath looked blue under the light of the moon. And those stars. I could go on again about the stars, but I would imagine you already understand that the sky, space, the galaxy, the universe…all of it is so unimaginably beautiful. And therein lies the irony. We don’t have to imagine beauty. It’s right before our very eyes. Sometimes all we need to do is embrace the darkness.


  1. "Therefore he says, Awake you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light". Eph 5:14 I've needed the darkness before I could fully experience the light. The ever present light that penetrates my soul to its core and warms my bones. The cool light of the moon and stars assure me that the sun still shines even when the darkness overtakes me.