Reflection:
Darkness, Light and New Life
Bushveld sunset.jpg

In this reflection we will be exploring the theme of darkness, light and new life. Nature tells us that light and darkness are in a continual interplay, coexisting and giving way to one another. The mystics use the language of both darkness and light to convey the mystery of Divine Presence. What does this mean for us in dark times of anguish, loneliness and spiritual "lostness", when the promise of light seems to be a distant dream or a false and cruel sentiment?

I will be using a talk that I recently gave on this theme, which I will weave together with music, readings and guided prayer. 

Opening chant:

Within our darkest nightTaize
00:00 / 04:33

Lyrics:

Within our darkest night

You kindle a fire that never dies away, never dies away;

Within our darkest night

You kindle a fire that never dies away, never dies away.

Talk:

The following is a link to a Youtube recording of a talk that I gave recently on this theme, with a response by Fr Larry Kaufmann, at Bonnie Kaufmann's regular "Coffee with God" online conversation. If you would like to follow the quotes used in this talk, they are pasted lower down on this website. (If you would like to get in touch with Bonnie to join her mailing list for these talks, her email address is bonniekaplan5@gmail.com).

Time for main talk: 25 minutes

Time with response by Larry Kaufmann: 35 minutes

The following two tracks are a guided prayer on this theme, the first without music and the second with gentle background music:

Guided prayer without background music
00:00 / 10:44
Guided prayer with gentle background music
00:00 / 10:44

As an ending to the guided practice, listen to the following song as a prayer:

Dante's PrayerLoreena McKennit
00:00 / 07:11

Lyrics:

When the dark wood fell before me
And all the paths were overgrown
When the priests of pride say there is no other way
I tilled the sorrows of stone

I did not believe because I could not see
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me

Then the mountain rose before me
By the deep well of desire
From the fountain of forgiveness
Beyond the ice and the fire

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me

Though we share this humble path, alone
How fragile is the heart
Oh give these clay feet wings to fly
To touch the face of the stars

Breathe life into this feeble heart
Lift this mortal veil of fear
Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears
We'll rise above these earthly cares

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me

Listen to the following piece of music as you read and reflect on the poem beneath:

The Sound of S2002 (Pamela and Randy Copus)
00:00 / 04:03

Poem : Beneath the waves

by Sarah Rule

 

Holy Midwife

beneath the choppy waters

where few choose to sail

is a stillness

and a movement back and forth

gentle in its rhythm

drawn by the fullness of the moon.

 

Your Spirit is nascent there

intertwined with my soul,

my longing

which seems so far away

so deep it is hard to see.

 

May Your loving arms

guide this newness

to break through the white-capped waters

to sing Your glory

as I spout and breathe

and dance with the surf.

For further reflection:

Below are some of the readings from the talk and some additional readings for you to reflect on further:

Genesis 28:16-17

“Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it. …How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

John 1:4-5 "In him was life, and that life was the light of all humanity. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it."

John 3:1-10

"Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

"Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

[The term “born again” can also be translated as born anew, from above or beyond or from the Source or Origin] 

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” 

 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit  gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You  must be born again.’  The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” 

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked." 

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 

 

1 Corinthians 1:25 – 29

"For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. ... God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast..."

 

Vince Gowmon:

“It’s in the space between the fracturing pieces of what we thought was our life that we finally feel and allow light to find us.”

 

St John of the Cross:

“Live in faith and hope, though it be in darkness, for in this darkness God protects the soul. Cast your care upon God, for you are God’s, and God will not forget you. Do not think that God is leaving you alone, for that would be to wrong God.”

 

Matt Licata:

“Somehow, we are asked to marinate in the womb of now, tend to the chaos and uncertainty, and find refuge in the unknown: to be midwife to the darkened illumination. There are signs and symbols and guidance all around and inside us, but that revelation is governed by a timeline orchestrated in the Mystery.”

Gerald May:

“The darkness of the night implies nothing sinister, only that the liberation takes place in hidden ways, beneath our knowledge and understanding. It happens mysteriously, in secret, and beyond our conscious control.”

 

Psalm 139:7,12

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”... “even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

 

Br David Standl Rast:

"Once you have experienced simultaneous awareness of light and its arising out of darkness, you have caught a glimpse of The Mystery of Origination. You will be able to find that mystery again and again, ... to let yourself down so deeply into what you see that you become aware of the womb of darkness from which it is being born. ... Yes, once you have been simultaneously aware of light and darkness and know from experience that you can entrust yourself to what Dylan Thomas calls “the close and holy darkness,” the dark womb of light, you will look with new eyes also at all that is dark around you. With a new courage and with new creativity, you will ... light up the world, but you will not fear the darkness, because you will recognize it as the not yet light."

Ending prayer: (from Thoughts in Solitude, by Thomas Merton)

 

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end,
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,

though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

   Amen.  

 

After the ending prayer, listen to the following song in closing:

Holy DarknessJohn Michael Talbot
00:00 / 03:56

Lyrics:

Holy darkness, blessed night
Heaven's answer hidden from our sight
As we await you, O God of silence
We embrace your holy night

I have tried you in the fires of affliction
I have taught your soul to grieve
In the barren soil of your loneliness
There I will plant my seed

In the deepest hour of your darkness
I will give you wealth untold
When the silence stills your spirit
Will my riches fill your soul

Holy darkness, blessed night
Heaven's answer hidden from our sight
As we await you, O God of silence
We embrace your holy night

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