O Holy Darkness

By Megan Foley

An icon of the black Madonna from St. Mary's church (Marienkirche) in Danzig.

Creative Darkness, closest friend, you whisper in the night;
you calm our fears as unknown paths surprise us with new sight.
We marvel at your bounty, your gifts so full and free,
unfolding as you waken us to new reality.

Excerpted lyrics to O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb, by Jann Aldredge-Clanton. Find out more on WorshipWeb.

From Rev. Megan Foley, Regional Lead

I get supremely edgy this time of year.

You can blame the upbringing in sunny and warm California and Asia if you like, or the subsequent long gray winters in New England or Ireland…but I do not like a lot of dark or cold. I work from home on many days, a home surrounded by hills, tall trees and apartment buildings, and I swear, these days I have to turn the lights on at 3 pm. Three o’clock in the afternoon. I may as well get out a paper bag to breathe into.

Our faith tradition, like many others, has a lot to say about the dark, so literally upon us this time of year, and it also has a lot to say about metaphorical dark times. There’s something scary about darkness for us diurnal humans, so reliant on sunshine and warmth for food and comfort, so reliant on our ability to see – when we can – to keep ourselves oriented and safe. Or, at least, it’s scary for me.

Poems like the ones above reorient me this time of year. Darkness is where Creation happens, and Lord knows we need some Creation in our world right now. Our known paths are heavily trod these days and don’t seem to be heading in the right direction at all.

What if we gave ourselves over, if only for a few minutes each day, for a few weeks of the year, to the idea that if we closed our eyes and unclenched our hands and jaws, a previously unseen and unknown path might open up for the people of this world? Instead of fighting the darkness, what if we considered it our closest friend, as the poem suggests? What can be done in the dim light of a wintery three o’clock afternoon that could never be done in the bright sunshine of another time of year? What can be known if we set our knowing aside and let the dark do its timeless work, just for a few months?

Bounty? Gifts, full and free? Even in winter? Forget the ads: this is what we really need for Christmas, now and always.

It’s the work of the faithful to orient ourselves so that we can receive gifts like these. It’s the work of the faithful to take the cues of the season and let a greater Creation, a greater Wholeness, restake its claim on our world.

What works of faith will you be offering this winter? What new reality will be waking in you, in your community, in all of us, come Spring?

About the Author

Megan Foley

Rev. Megan Foley serves as Regional Lead for the Central East Region staff. Before joining regional staff she served for six years as the minister of the Sugarloaf Congregation of Unitarian Universalists in Germantown, Maryland....

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