By Sr. Doreen, SSJD.
Sister Doreen’s Reflections
Darkness is not dark to you;
The night is as bright as the day;
Darkness and light to you are both alike
(Psalm 139:11 BAS)
If I should cry to the darkness to cover me, and the night to enclose me, the darkness is no darkness to you, and the night is as clear as the day.
(Psalm 139:11 J. Cotter)
We end our day at the Convent with a service called “Night Prayers” an Order for Compline, a small booklet put out by the Anglican Church of Canada. The preface to the service reminds us that the presence of God, whose word and love, always accompanies and upholds us though the darkness. For many of us night and darkness are not always positive or peaceful experiences, but are times when we are very conscious of our own vulnerability. The imagery in the service of Night Prayers reminds us of the presence of God who both surrounds and fills us and places us within the safe circle of God’s love. And so we hear important words to cherish – love words spoken by and to our loving God: “we forget that we are Your home” – “Keep us as the apple of Your eye” – “Hide us under the shadow of your wings.”
These words can become “whispers” that we make our own, daily disciplines that empower us to navigate the dark segments of our life journeys. “We learn to give up control into God’s hands, to trust even when we are vulnerable, and how to walk through the darkness and allow God to transform the deepest darkness of our own souls, our most secret faults, and bring us to the light of eternal day” (BAS – Night prayers).
To be able to live in the present moment in the darkness as well as in the light with the confidence that we are held within the unconditional, ever present compassion and love of God’s embrace, is a gift. We see examples of this in scripture, and more especially in Exodus and the experiences of Moses – there seems a dark cloud always separates us from God. As Belden Lane puts it: “A dark cloud always separates the believer from her deepest desire, a God beyond the reach of human reason. It is a frustrating darkness through which the mind cannot see, yet it serves to intensify longing for that which is loved.”
It is the darkness that often offers us this gift with a poignancy that is precious. There is something profound in the understanding that it is only in the dark that we can see the stars … the place of fearfulness – the place of risk – is also paradoxically, the place of being known and loved. In a very real sense, it often in darkness that we find ourselves being lured by God through increasing vulnerability to a deeper knowledge and love.
Some helpful quotes:
“The light we gain in darkness is the awareness that, however bleak the place of darkness was for us, we did not die there. We know now that life begins again on the other side of the darkness. Another life. A new life. After the death, the loss, the rejection, the failure, life goes on. Differently, but on. Having been sunk into the cold night of black despair – and having survived it – we rise to new light, calm and clear and confident that what will be, will be enough for us.
Growth is the boundary between the darkness of unknowing and the light of new wisdom, new insight, new vision of who and what we ourselves have become. After darkness we are never the same again. We are only stronger, simpler, surer than ever before that there is nothing in life we cannot survive … “
(Joan Chittister – Between the Dark and the Daylight)
“I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.” Og Mandino
“Prayer at night is different from prayer in the day. Whether it is ‘waiting for the dawn’ in the early hours, or ‘doing battle’ with the ‘powers of evil’ in the middle of the night, it requires a naked exposure before God – the kind of nakedness that can be clothed in the daytime by those familiar distractions which make it more difficult to stay still and keep attentive to God … as Life-giver, Pain-bearer, Love-maker” – Sister Jane, SLG (quoted by Jim Cotter – Prayer at Night – a book for the darkness).