The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on."--Lead, Kindly Light, by John Henry Newman
O Oriens. O Radiant Dawn. Come quickly. The night is dark, and I am far from home.
I've dwelled in darkness for a long time. Some of it was because I was so stupid. And sinful. I never want to gloss over the fact that I'm a sinner, and sins have consequences. Serious ones. I live with the consequences of things I did as a very young woman every single day. God is merciful. Some of the darkness I dwelled in was because that unforgiving black shrouded the environments I was in, even some of the churches. Darkness can be hard to escape in what the old church folks call "these last and evil days."
Tonight, someone confronted me about some of my darkest darkness. This person is very close to me, and he kinda went on and on. I mean, really, nobody has to tell me the effects of the bad choices I've made. I told him that every day I wake up a 45 year-old failure because of my choices. I know how many times I got evicted. I know how little money I have in the bank. I know when this and that got shut off, and believe me, it hurt me a lot more than it hurt him. I know how often people give to me. And truly, nobody has to tell me about my husband's failures either. I get it. We get it. I don't even have the energy to be in denial about our inadequacies. Even if I did, my lack of success in life, for most of my adult life, would continue to make a strong case against me.
People who have it all don't have to hope in the way we jacked up folks do. Those who have always shone in the bright noon light of a fabulous life don't count down Advent with their hearts aflame because they need that baby here with everything in them. I need him for every little thing, like teaching me, at long last, how to find my footing on the wobbly ground of their existence. I'm desperate for the baby because he. Is. Hope. He's the only one that makes, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," conceivable. Jesus is my promise of a radiant new life, even though I'm 45 years-old, and sleeping in a dining room of a rental house. It could be worse! At Mass yesterday I heard about a family with a mom and dad about my age who had nine children, huddled in a single room of their house with no electricity. I'll bet they've spent a lot of time praying for mercy and provision, and beating themselves up for not covering the basics. And it gets worse than their situation. So we hope. And hope. And hope again to keep from drinking ourselves to death, or sexing ourselves to death, or putting a revolver to our heads and pulling the trigger. Hope keeps us alive. Some days it's all we have. Maybe even most days.
Right now my life resembles a slowly emerging dawn, and here I am, sitting in the cool, glimpsing the day's first lights, streaked with purple, orange and pink. And it's pretty darned glorious. "Isn't it wonderful?" I'm thinking as urban abbess, worker of mercy, and fierce soul friend rises into view. "Isn't it a miracle?" I'm saying, right now, in wonder, despite my tears.
Maybe I'm not making sense. Disregard this whole post! At the moment, I'm crying, and more than a little wounded. O Oriens, O Radiant Dawn looks very, very good to me.
I can't help it. I see Jesus, Jesus, Jesus in the beautiful light of dawn. I see him in the dark. I wouldn't have--couldn't have-- endured it if I hadn't. My past is meaningless in his numinous, loving light. And Jesus just keeps illuminating me, crazy God that he is. It doesn't matter to him how much I've disappointed anyone, including myself. And if that doesn't convince me of the reality of the Incarnation nothing does. Watching for the light reminds me of what I know best about him: He loves me! He stays. And I'm so thankful for the light.
I'm just thankful, y'all. No matter what.
splendor lucis aeternae,
veni, et illumina sedentes
in tenebris, et umbra mortis
Splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
Paradiso XXX; 61
First light and then first lines along the east
To touch and brush a sheen of light on water
As though behind the sky itself they traced
The shift and shimmer of another river
Flowing unbidden from its hidden source;
The Day-Spring, the eternal Prima Vera.
Blake saw it too. Dante and Beatrice
Are bathing in it now, away upstream…
So every trace of light begins a grace
In me, a beckoning. The smallest gleam
Is somehow a beginning and a calling;
“Sleeper awake, the darkness was a dream
For you will see the Dayspring at your waking,
Beyond your long last line the dawn is breaking” -- Malcolm Guite
Come, Radiant Dawn. You are so beautiful. And I need you.