This autumn, I can see (from my previous posts!) that I have been reflecting on the darkness that is part of us all, and part of the journey of our lives. Without the darkness we do not witness the Light.
Now, we are entering the season of darkness. In the liturgy of the Church, this is the season of Advent – which means, “coming.” The symbolic meaning is that this time is the time before the Light returns – the Light of days turning longer, of the seasons passing from light to twilight, from twilight and once again, to darkness, and then – leaning toward light.
From times that pre-dated the Christian era in world history, people of all cultures have honored the Coming of the Light – solstice celebrations, dances in nature on the darkest night, giving way to the first moments of the longer days, the Arriving. Christians took on the traditions of the past and made them their own, while still honoring the passages of time, of life, and of death.
In the past few years, I have had the privilege of having my eyes open to the changing of the light, from moment to moment, from day to day, from season to season, and now, from year to year. This past Sunday morning, I called my husband into our room from his morning preparations. For a moment, the Asian maple outside our bedroom windows was blazing – yes, blazing! – with light. And in another moment, this blazing light was gone.
Still, we were privileged to have witnessed that blazing red maple.
The years seem to pass this way, also – quickly, darting from one to the next. Where did those long, long days of summer as a child go? Where did the winters, never-ending, in the Midwest, with the wicked winds off Lake Michigan, and the darkness that did not ever seem to give way to light? Where did those long days, confined to bed as a child with the measles, go? How long ago those dark, cold Christmas Eves when the church was filled with the light of candles, and each child received a box of chocolate-covered cherries for her efforts at memorizing the story of Christmas? Where are those anxious years of young adulthood, wondering whether I could really make a life for myself? Where are all those worries, those uncertainties, those conflicts that seemed to be the last? Where have they all gone?
Like dust, they have flown away, away from me.
Now, I am here, honoring the light and the darkness, watching the days move and change, from moment to moment. Here I am, grateful for this blessed time, when I fall in love with life more deeply, every day. I see the seasons change each day in the branches and leaves of my beloved birch tree, outside my front window. I see the birds change, too, as the seasons change, now in autumn, flitting quickly from branch to branch, and then on to another tree, in search of food for another day. I see the machine-like movements of the local squirrels, squirreling away food for the winter. I see how strong – and how vulnerable – each creature is to the changing of the seasons.
We face into time, more conscious of it as we grow older. We face into time, savoring what we can from what we have saved, learning to trust, more and more, as a child learns to trust, one step, then another, on her wobbly, chubby legs, and then – to walk.
Now, we face into the time of Darkness, before the Coming of the Light. That Darkness is in you, and it is in me. And surely, surely, so is Light.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”