If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have communion with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
For a variety of reasons, my thoughts have been drawn increasingly to the imagery within Scripture of darkness and light. It is powerful imagery that, for me, echoes the inner, existential experience of the Christian life. To walk in the light is to walk in communion with God (in Whom there is no darkness at all). But I find that a great deal of human existence is spent in darkness.
Lies are darkness. Fear is darkness. Anxiety is darkness. Hatred and enmity are darkness. Bitterness and anger are darkness. Enslavement to the passions is darkness. All of these things, or things very similar, are a common part of the human experience. Their effect is the opposite of the light. To walk in darkness is to break communion with one another and to ourselves estranged from God as well.
Someone recently asked me, “What makes a good confession?” Of course, there is no one simple answer to the question. The answer I offered came from my own experience: “Whenever I am able to bring the darkness of my heart into the light of God’s good favor – that is a good confession.” The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.
The area of Tennessee in which I live is riddled with caves and caverns. Some of them have been turned into tourist attractions. Years back, I took my family on a visit to one of the larger caves. It was well-fitted for tourists – with handrails and other safety measures. A common part of the tour took place in one of the deeps rooms of the cave. When everyone was safely seated (on benches that had placed in the room) – all electric lighting was extinguished. We remained in this state for a number of minutes. The experience is one that generally does not come to us on the surface of the planet. There was a total absence of light. It becomes impossible to see anything, regardless of distance. There was simply no light.
The experience is frightening to many, and was certainly unnerving to me. I felt that for the first time I understood “darkness,” and I disliked the experience in the extreme.
The human life is a journey – either towards darkness or towards light. I do not think I have ever met anyone whom I would describe as in “total darkness” – there are minor sources of light in even very darkened lives. I do not think I have ever met anyone whom I would describe as in “total light” – though I have met some in whom the light of Christ so shone, that I was not aware of darkness.
We are created to walk in the light. The “robe of righteousness” about which we sing at Baptism, is the righteousness of Christ – some of the fathers describe this as a “garment of light.” Moses was clothed in such light when he came down from Mount Sinai.
It is an image, as I’ve noted, that has held my attention for some time now. More than an image – the light is the uncreated light of God.
I pray daily for Christ to lift the darkness to pierce through my blindness and to grant grace for my heart to embrace the light. I want communion with others and the blood of Jesus to cleanse me of all sin.
O, Gladsome Light!
Thank you again for your posts. Do we have periods of darkness as we are journeying (hopefully) toward the light? Times when we have to let go of old, confining concepts of God and when we are “in the dark” as to what God might be doing (as you described in an earlier post, The Quiet Work of God). I trust that God is present in my life, in all life even though my experience of God is shifting. It feels as if someone has turned off the light.
I think when there is darkness, we should pray for the light, make as good a confession as possible and be frequent in the sacraments.
Regarding periods of darkness, I came across this from the Desert Fathers recently:
Abba Euprepius said, “Knowing that God is faithful and mighty, have faith in him and you will share what is his. If you are depressed, you do not believe. We all believe that he is mighty and we believe that all things are possible to him. As for your own affairs, behave with faith in him about them, too, for he is able to work miracles in you also.”
Kathleen, I suppose there are overlaps between the “darkness” of the mysterious workings of God in the soul, and the “darkness” of the sinful passions that blind us to what God is really like, but it seems to me they don’t necessarily reflect the same state of the heart. For example, it seems to me we are in a different state when we recognize with humility how little we really know God (what you seem to be describing) and are actively trusting Him to progressively illumine and guide us despite our blindness (by following Fr. Stephen’s advice above, for example), and when in our passionate blindness, we arrogantly assume we know more than we do about Him and thus show the truly darkened state of our soul.
Its absolutely normal to perceive God differently, as well as anything really as our perception and point of view changes imo. The same happens with all things; typically with one’s job, subject or endeavor: the more one knows the more deeply he perceives.
A judo beginner who has yet to master breaking falls and is still fearful about them views judo very differently from an expert who sees the art behind the martial mask.
The light gets turned off and on time and again. In the in between one needs be patient.
Very difficult….be it must be that God´s light must shine on our darkness.
In reading this I sense two kinds, types of darkness. One is the darkness that inhabits our hearts. We need to ask Jesus to enter in and heal our accumulation of greed, anger, hurt etc.
The other darkness is in trusting God, who because He is God we cannot fully know Him. I am reminded of a saying I learned years ago and do not know the source.
“I said to the man who stood at the gate of the Year, ‘Give me a Light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied,
Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than lignt and safer than a known way!’
God certainly cannot be fully known, but i honsetly can’t find anyone else or anything else that it can.
A poem I learned years ago (and love):
God never would send you the darkness
If He thought you could bear the light
But you would not cling to His guiding hand
If the way were always bright
And you would not choose to walk by faith
If you could always walk by sight.
I do not know the author. Research has turned up several variations all before 1920, the oldest from 1901 Methodist Magazine.
This is indeed an awesome post. In an earlier comment, I mentioned the “lights being turned out.” In a dream last night I was traveling alone on foot in the snow at night. At one point I cannot see at all and become very scared. When I am told to open my eyes [thinking recently about the “eyes of the heart], I can again see. It is in no way full light but there are bits of light here and there on the snow and I know of God’s presence. Thanks be to God who is ever merciful. I continue with confession and participation in the sacraments.
Last night I saw a report on television about the trapped miners in Chile. My first thought was about whether or not they had light down there – They must because they are sending down supplies and games – but just thinking about spending 3-4 months trapped in a cave? Impossible and yet I am trapped in my own cave of making seeking Light.
This reminds me of the time here in Oregon being with a several friends walking in a lava tube. We manage to get nearly a mile in and we decided to turn off our lanters. It was dark as dark gets, you could hold your hand in front of your face and not see it. While in the darkness though as we crept through the world of darkness in the lava tube, others would come holding a light. You could see the light coming and then pass by. We it seems are either in the darkness or bareing the light. Those who had the light could pass it onto us, help light our light or we could follow them. There is probably a hundred diffrent lessons in the experience.