Many people experience the lack of light in winter time as difficult. Some suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), resulting in depression due to the deprivation of light. For them, darkness is an enemy to be contended with. But darkness can also be a friend. Velma Frye sings of this in the song based on Macrina Wiederkehr’s reflections in Seven Sacred Pauses: “O beautiful darkness, O comforting darkness.” How can darkness bring comfort? Think of a child in the lightless womb, a shade tree on a beastly-hot summer day, the dark sky revealing a star-studded cosmos.
Winter is the time of repose, of nature’s restoration and renewal. This season actually strengthens the parts of creation that experience long hours of darkness. It allows for a quiet resting of both vegetation and creatures. What is quite amazing is that trees are already budding in wintertime, holding a secret of hope. If you look closely at these terminal buds on branches, you can see their tight protection of life. These buds will quickly leaf or flower with warming sun and spring rain. In the following prayer, I name the Holy One as our Strengthening Darkness, a source of restoration, renewal and repose for us when we are in need of these gifts.
Prayer (If used communally, all present respond to each statement.
O Strengthening Darkness, we are the terminal buds on the tree of life. Waiting, trusting, remaining hopeful—may these valued movements of the heart increase in us. Light-filled days will come again into our lives. As the radiant warmth of springtime unfurls the hidden green in buds whose arms wrapped tightly around themselves, so will surprises of future light awaken and unfurl what has seemed forever buried in our winter’s repose.
© Joyce Rupp