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The inside of darkness is like a thief continuing to encroach upon our sun-time, October’s riotous display, only the faintest of memories.

Leaves from scarlet maples, burgundy pear trees, buttery tulip trees have already gorged December’s appetite, their remnants lining curbs, imprinting sidewalks with outlines, and lodging corners of gutters. Winds swipe footpaths strewn with twisted branches, split stems, graying fragments, crushed acorns, even gumballs. Overhead, hag-like pin oaks frame the darkening world with specter arms.

An eerie stillness companions this loss of color. An unseen power plummets us within this darkening, replete with life-lessons, if we’ve the will to befriend it.

We seek footholds: its port-wine richness intrigues us; its lavender essence intoxicates us; its velvety embrace soothes us; its subtle shades challenge us; and its haunting music transports us to other realms.

We listen, deeply. Solemnity stirs deep thoughts like chanting monks in hushed monasteries.

We wait for direction beneath tonight’s gibbous waxing moon.

It is dusk. November winds skitter shriveled leaves into piles along the curb, against storefronts on Manchester Road, upon windshields of motorists. Leaning against a newsstand slouches a sightless shopper, his right hand poised on his red-white cane; his left, clutching a bag from Walgreen’s. He strains for the stoplight’s buzz to cue him forward. Long moments pass until its raspy sound squares his shoulders into action. Tentatively, he sweeps his cane in front of him and shuffles across the street. Motorists watch.

This man, like many others afflicted with blindness, shows us how to maneuver in darkness, even thrive.

We, the sighted, also experience darkness in our festering resentments, as well as in the fear-mongering media plunging our world into back alleys of compliance. So much is shrink-wrapped, truncated, and juiced to exhaustion. Ignoring what’s going on does not help. It is far better to know the forces draining our vitality.

So how maneuver in this darkness, without losing soul, certainly the challenge facing us today? Some suggestions: slow down; access the Light within; listen for cues, much like that blind man did, crossing Manchester Road; and obey them. It does work.

May we keep our spirits open to this Light and allow its warmth to enlarge our courage. We are special!

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In my perception, O! is a hiccup of Spirit; it collapses disparate images into fresh paradigms, evokes quickenings, and precipitates change.

I still wonder over a memorable one that befell me four days before Christmas in 1957.

I was a new postulant, in formation to become a nun. Hurriedly, I moved with the choir, our Libers in hand, down shadowy corridors toward the community room of the professed religious where they were gathered for recreation. We were fulfilling another Advent tradition.

The pitch pipe sounded. With full hearts, we began chanting, “O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiate: veni, et illumani sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis!” the ancient strains resonating around us. Suddenly, the austerities of manual work, the wintry chill, the exhaustion no longer mattered. Another world, yearning for light, engulfed my darkness. I glimpsed peace and again surrendered to this mysterious life path.

Today, our darkness is even deeper, the longing for light/deliverance, more aching as we move into a New Year of uncertainty. It is even more fitting to return to this sixth-century antiphon composed by Benedictine French monks at San-Benoit-sur-Loire. With them, we continue to pray, “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death!” taken from Isaiah 9:1.

We are in good company.

 

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