• David Carlson

459 In its enthusiasm for divine light, theology has not always done justice to the divine darkness

Day 459 June 18th 2021

In its enthusiasm for the divine light, Christian theology has not always done justice to the divine darkness. . . .



The Shadow in Christianity


In its enthusiasm for the divine light, Christian theology has not always done justice to the divine darkness. . . .


We tend to get trapped in the idea of a static perfection that leads to rigid perfectionism.


Abstract speculation can create an image of God that is foreign to the human heart; A God that does not contain our shadows. Then we try to live up to the standards of a God that is purely light, and we can’t handle the darkness within us.


And because we can’t handle it, we suppress it. But the more we suppress it, the more it leads its own life, because it’s not integrated. Before we know it, we are in serious trouble.

- Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast

You can get out of that trap if you come back to the core of the Christian tradition, to the real message of Jesus. You find him, for instance, saying, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” [Matthew 5:48].


Yet he makes it clear that this is not the perfection of suppressing the darkness, but the perfection of integrated wholeness.


That’s the way Matthew puts it in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus talks of our Father in heaven who lets the sun shine on the good and the bad, and lets the rain fall on the just and the unjust alike. It’s both the rain and the sun, not only the sun. And it’s both the just and the unjust.



Jesus stresses the fact that God obviously allows the interplay of shadow and light. God approves of it. If God’s perfection allows for tensions to work themselves out, who are we to insist on a perfection in which all tensions are suppressed? . . .


As Paul writes, “By grace you have been saved” [Ephesians 2:8]. That’s one of the earliest insights in the Christian tradition: it’s not by what you do that you earn God’s love. Not because you are so bright and light and have purged out all the darkness does God accept you, but as you are.


Not by doing something, not by your works, but gratis you have been saved. That means you belong. God has taken you in. God embraces you as you are—shadow and light, everything. God embraces it, by grace.




And it has already happened.


If you are willing to bear serenely the trial of being displeasing to yourself, you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter. —St. Thérèse of Lisieux


Richard Rohr, From the Center for Action and Contemplation

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