In late March, as the heavy reality of the pandemic and its restrictions descended, I thought: Thank God spring is around the corner! Just imagine how this would feel if we were heading into winter and the darkness was literally deepening.
And now that is exactly where we find ourselves: a nationwide surge of suffering and death as the nights become longer — a doubly dark experience that we will carry in our memories and our imaginations forever.
Kevin and I keep at our bedside a year of essays by Ronald Blythe, an English parish pastor. His richly descriptive, earthy language is common bedtime reading for us and never grows stale. Pandemic aside, he writes of this season:
“The days do not so much break as emerge. Milky sun and milky moon share the same obscure sky and the fields and hedgerows cannot see where they are going.”
Anticipating Advent, he references a 500-year-old prayer, which begins:
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life . . .
Such a compelling image! I am tired of the armor of masks and physical distancing. I want the armor of light!
Our dark ordeal fuels an Advent longing further intensified by our many constraints. We simply cannot do the many things that we want to do to lighten our spirits.
As plant and animal life goes underground in these short cold days, so are we forced inward again, into our houses, our small social bubbles and into ourselves. I return to a favorite line from a David Whyte poem:
“Make a nesting now . . . and be the one looking out from this place who warms interior forms into light.”
What are these interior forms? Daydreams? Longings? The inner moving of the Holy Spirit? We are called again to imagination, because without it we have no hope.
There is a raw urgency to Advent this year. Our stories and songs speak frankly about dark realities (refugees, dictators, genocide) — and still the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. I am hungry for light.
And I ask myself and you: what interior forms are we warming into light, as we light our Advent candles this year?