Saturday, December 16, 2017

Darkness has a tangible quality

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For a while at the end of seminary, my husband Nik and I followed a fairly strict routine. Around 8 or so, when it had finally started to get dark in Tennessee, we turned off all the harsh fluorescent lights in our student apartment and lit candles. We called it “candle time,” and we started doing it as a way to spend intentional time together at the end of a long day, to better wind down. There was one evening when my orchestra rehearsal ran long and I biked home in a rush and hurried to the door juggling my French horn, music folder, water bottle, and keys. When I opened the door, instead of more noise, more bright stage lights, more people asking something of me, there was only soft light, warmth, and quiet. And when we finally blew out the candles, some of that warmth remained. Our apartment, rather than being sterile student housing with thin carpeting and ugly cabinets, had been purified somehow. The darkness had been changed.

Darkness is not always empty. Right now, I am rereading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and there is a point when Meg and the other characters travel to a distant planet by way of a wrinkle in space. While they are traveling, Meg was completely alone. Reflecting back on it after, she realizes: “It was not as simple as darkness, or absence of light. Darkness has a tangible quality; it can be moved through and felt; in darkness you can bark your shins; the world of things still exists around you.”

In Advent, as the days shorten and the nights lengthen, I am finding myself leaning into that darkness, the type of darkness that is full, rather than empty. I am pressing into the penitential Sunday lections and prayers, the apocalyptic Daily Office readings. I am casting around in the dark and realizing I am not alone. The darkness falling in Advent is not the empty darkness of Meg’s travel through space, but a darkness that is full of active waiting, anticipation, and hope. It is the darkness that falls after candle time: holy, refreshing, allowing you to go deeper and deeper, all the while knowing that you are safe.

Post by Carrie Combs

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