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!