‘I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you Which shall be the darkness of God’
T.S. Elliot, Four Quartets
The darkness of God is a surprising idea. We tend to think of darkness as a met-aphor for evil or suffering, and at this time of year we try to keep it at bay with festivals of light. The bright lights of Bonfire Night and Christmas bring us together and lift our spirits.
Yet our modern lives are full of artificial light. It is wonderfully convenient but too much is bad for us. We spend a lot of our time being dazzled by the screens of our TVs, computers and phones. Our cities are so brilliantly lit that it is sometimes impossible to see the stars for the glow. Just as our lives are noisier, now they are brighter too.
Yet the darkness of night has a profound and natural goodness. Darkness gives our eyes a rest, and encourages our bodies to slow down and be still. We are creatures of the earth and it may be that we need the true night of our planet in the same way we need water to drink, or peace and quiet. Darkness is restoring. In fact we cannot live our lives in permanent light. In true darkness we can find a renewed connection with the earth and a deep sense of peace.
The mystics of the middle ages imagined God as the sacred darkness itself. For them the divine is what remains when everything superfluous has been pared back. Their god is an intense and enveloping mystery. The darkness is to be respected but not feared; it can bring insight and a kind of intimacy with God. Meister Eckhart wrote ‘The word is a hidden word and comes in the darkness of the night. To enter this darkness put away all voices and sounds, all images and likenesses. For no image has ever reached into the soul’s foundation where God alone, being God, does his work.’
I hope you enjoy the festivities of the season, and its lovely sacred darkness.