Last weekend I went to the Advent Service at Salisbury Cathedral. At the beginning of the service, as the clock struck five, the cathedral was plunged into darkness. One solitary candle was lit at the West Door and then gradually, to the sound of sublime choral plainsong, hundreds of candles were lit throughout the vast space of the cathedral. It’s hard to describe just how deeply moving, uplifting and life-affirming the service was.
Just before it began, we were invited to think about those who might perhaps be in a dark place in their lives. The service was a comforting reminder that, when things are tough, it’s reassuring to know that light brings hope and that things can change and get better. It reminded me of the experience of lying awake in the middle of the night — when fears and worries always seem so much worse — and how reassuring it is to know that things will seem so much more optimistic in the light of morning.
For yet another perspective on this, I like this quote by Og Mandino: I will love the light for it shows me the way; yet I will love the darkness for it shows me the stars.
Advent is, of course, all about the coming of the Light. But we’re not far now from the Winter Solstice; that day in the depths of winter that heralds the turning of the earth from winter to spring — from darkness into light. The days will gradually lengthen, and deep in the earth the natural world will be stirring — bringing with it the promise of spring and a resurgence of life and energy.
But what about the less obvious aspects of moving from darkness into light? Could it be discarding the cloak that’s kept you invisible, and stepping into the light of who you really are? Making the brave decision to leave a job or relationship that’s kept you in the dark and into one that brings joy and light into your life? Or perhaps doing something outrageous to ignite a spark in yourself and in your life? What might that look like?
As we move towards Christmas, I hope that it will bring much light and joy into your life. And in any dark moments, be reassured by these beautiful words from the Persian mystic and poet Hafez:
“I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.”
Have a wonderful Festive Season and see you next year!