656 I knew that darkness held and healed me
Day 656 January 1, 2022
In my mind, church talk about an association of darkness with evil and goodness with light made no sense. I knew that darkness held and healed me.
As an African American woman, I wear darkness as a skin color that I love. It is a reminder of my African origins, hidden in my genes, but not accessible through memory. Without darkness, I would not be! I entered the world from the nurturing darkness of the womb and relied upon a dark and resourceful family, community, and cosmos for my well-being. . . .
We come from the darkness and return to it.
But there are many types of darkness. There is the darkness of determined ignorance and hatred, impenetrable and smothering.
There is the tiny microcosm of darkness that gave birth to the universe, its new realities and new worlds.
There is the mothering darkness of the womb, and the protective darkness of the “cloud by night.” . . .
Because I saw my Aunties negotiate darkness as a reality with as much potential as light, I stopped being afraid of the dark. I realized that sight and insight were not dependent upon the glaring light produced by humans, for there was an inner light that glowed and revealed much more. . . .
In my mind, church talk about an association of darkness with evil and goodness with light made no sense. I knew that darkness held and healed me. So, there had to be many types of darkness that I could differentiate, dismiss, or embrace. . . .
No matter how fractured things seem to be, no matter how the crisis splinters our delusions, there is a solid foundation within and beneath us, beside and between us. We can depend on this wholeness when it is experienced as a dark night of the soul for individuals, or an eclipse of the ordinary for the community.
An eclipse occurs when one object gets in between us and another object and blocks our view. . . . We are not permanently blocked from the light. Also, we are not able to rely upon our sight to overcome the obstruction.
Finally, during an eclipse, we have a dimming of the familiar and a loss of taken-for-granted clues that we rely upon every day to remind us of who we are and why we are here. Yet, although we are not always comfortable in darkness, the invitation to come away from life in the spotlight is intriguing. Could there be a blessing in the shadows?
The eclipse reminds us to linger in the darkness, to savor the silence, to embrace the shadow—for the light is coming, the resurrection is afoot, transformation is unfolding, for God is working in secret and in silence to create us anew.
It was a thrilling moment to view the total solar eclipse from the stairs off the deck in my own backyard. With my special viewing glasses, I looked up at the sun at 1:18 PM Central Standard Time, and saw total darkness. This moment of mid-day night didn’t last very long, reminding me of John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” When Jesus was crucified, the daylight turned to darkness, but like this eclipse, the darkness did not overcome God’s power to save and bring life and light where there was once only death.
Isn’t it amazing how God uses the creation to reinforce and remind us of eternal truths—the darkness is momentary while God’s love and light are constant and eternal; the caterpillar enters the pupa of apparent death and emerges in a bodily transformation and resurrection; the seed falls to the ground and dies and yet it rises again to bear much fruit; our energy—whether in daily life or healing from a trauma—ebbs and flows like the tide, waxes and wanes like the moon, moves forward and inches back before surging forward again, like a flower reaching for the sun.
It’s easy to forget that in the darkness, in the resting, in the letting go, God does her best work! That is when God is working out something new in us—and God must do it in secret, during the “dark night of the soul” because if we knew what God was up to, we would grab control of the process, and manipulate the outcome!
The eclipse reminds us to linger in the darkness, to savor the silence, to embrace the shadow—for the light is coming, the resurrection is afoot, transformation is unfolding, for God is working in secret and in silence to create us anew. Hold fast to the promise and patterns of God, for the dawn always follows the night.
- A reflection by Barbara Holmes of the Center for Action and Contemplation
A scholar of African American spirituality and mysticism, Dr. Barbara Holmes reveals how the cosmos can expand our limited constructs of religion, race, and power.
She is the author of Race and the Cosmos and Joy Unspeakable.
Watch a lovely introduction to Barbara Holmes on YouTube at:
CMN's executive director, Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, speaks about catholic initiatives to end the death penalty and to encourage restorative justice.