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Monday, October 30, 2006

Darkness Into Light

I always forget how the light changes, and goes away so quickly after Daylight Savings ends. For weeks now I've been walking my dogs in the early morning darkness long before dawn, resigned to this fate because it is as it must be.

Then tonight as I left work, already it was twilight, and the wind, having increased since I was last outside before noon, had taken on the hint of an edge, and the temperature had fallen. Leaves were blowing around everywhere, constantly drifting around my car, striking my windshield, becoming whirling dervishes where the corner of the building created an updraft of sorts.

There has also been a foreboding I especially sense on windy fall nights such as this, which never fails to send me into a sort of introspective menancholy. It is the knowledge of the change of the seasons, the knowledge of the trials of winter that we all must pass through, like passing through that season of death in order to come into new life once again.

Tonight I had an appointment at my parish and wheras last week at this hour had I arrived, the sun would be approaching the western horizon...but tonight, it was full darkness. The wind gusted, whirling the leaves constantly, causing the branches, some skeletal, some evergreen, to wave violently as though in defiance. And that sense of forboding wouldn't go away...and the darkness seemed nothing but oppressive.

I dislike the darkness, and for a few moments, internally I railed against it, already tired of the growing hours in which we must put up with it. As I approached the entrance to the church, I saw that the lights were off, and my irritation increased. I needed to enter God's house and take comfort in the blessed light of the foyer, but instead, it seemed I was entering an abandoned place. Yet I had to pass through this shadowy, cavernous, silent and empty hall in order to reach my destination...the Blessed Sacrament chapel.

"Why are the lights off?" I grumbled to myself as I passed the marble benches and skirted the kiosks. I looked for a light switch, then saw that I would pass by one near the corner of the brick wall. I turned it on, instantly feeling better as the florescents flickered on. Instantly, the "gathering space" was more welcoming, and that feeling of oppression had lifted.

After a few moments with Jesus, I left and passed again through the still darker-than-usual room. Other people were walking through, now, and stopping at the kiosk to read of parish events and other things.

It was then that I realized that nothing happens by accident. I had a little conversation with God, which, if it could be put into words, would have gone something like this:

"What just happened?! I think I'm missing a point somewhere here...what are you trying to teach me?"

You entered and found darkness...then turned on the light.

"I had to turn on the light...I couldn't stand being in the dark anymore." recognized the darkness, and rather than letting it remain, you chose to bring the light. YOU brought the light into the darkness, just by passing by.

"But God...I didn't put the switch there, or do the wiring, or invent electricity...or the light itself. I only turned it on."

In the past, you were in the darkness, and you didn't know where the light was. Now, you know where the light is to be found, so rather than pass by, you carry the knowledge of that light with you always...and so you have the choice to turn it on. It is thus that people who pass through that same space are not plagued by that same darkness...because your actions have brought my light to them.

I had to chew this over quite a bit, and the "coversation" above is not exactly how it went, for the gentle flood of light within my soul was interior, and more silent than a whisper. Tonight, I learned a lesson. We carry the light of Christ within us, and thus we always have a choice...accept the darkness within which we wander...or find the switch that opens the floodgates of God's grace. Wherever we choose to bring the light, others will follow, perhaps not ever having to bark their shins on the same obstacles that tripped us. We are all called to action in Christ, to do small things with great faith, great trust, and even the smallest task can make a huge difference in the life and experience of another.

Tonight, all I did was turn on a switch. I didn't do it for anyone else, really...I wasn't motivated by that. I turned it on because I was irritated at the darkness.

I think that those who turn on the light for others and not for their own comfort are the ones we should follow...and the ones we refer to as "Saints."

Shortly after this incident, I opened my Magnificat, and found the reflection for the night. The author was none other than St. Catherine of Siena:

We must not complain or run away in time of darkness, because out of the darkness is born the light. Oh, God, tender love, what sweet teaching you give us that virtue is learned through what is contrary to it!

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