What You See
Throw away the light, the definitions, and say what you see in the dark. – Wallace Stevens
Time is a storm in which we are all lost. – William Carlos Williams
We Christians consider ourselves people of Light. Much of our significant liturgy concerns itself with light. Our Savior is called the Light of all by St. John’s Gospel.
To prove this point, consider how many of our fears are rooted in darkness. Consider how darkness itself is considered to be a source of fear, perhaps even evil. How many of you would go to the local abandoned house all the locals insist is haunted, plop yourself down in the attic, and sit in total darkness, both inside the house and out?
I remember telling my younger daughter, when she was small, there is nothing there in the darkness that isn’t there in the light. A couple months back, I apologized to her for that. I had forgotten, somehow, that the darkness opens up shadows and dark corners to all sorts of fears. It is ironic, of course, that I had to live through my own deep darkness before I remembered the terror of the dark room, the closed closet door, the creak of a floor board once the lights are out.
We are about to enter the church season of Lent. We are to prepare ourselves for the Event of the Passion. It begins, of course, with Ash Wednesday, when we are to contemplate that we are creatures, are mortal, and that we will die. This is our primal fear: That one day we shall cease to exist. Worse, all around us we know the world will continue to be without us, as if our existence was of no value at all. Oh, we’ll have mourners, of course (at least we hope we will). All the same, the world will spin, events will continue to unfold, and we are left with the question so many ask but no one has yet really answered: What’s it all about? Why?
Turning out the lights, tossing out all we know, sitting in the darkness, listening to the creak of the floorboards, the groan of the foundation settling, the wind blowing a pine cone or branch on the roof – what do you see? Do you believe, like I told Miriam, there is nothing in the darkness that is not there in the light?
As we prepare for Ash Wednesday tomorrow, and Lent to follow, as we long for the Light, remember that we must not just travel through darkness. We must sit in silence in the darkness. We must forget what we think we know. We must say what we see. Only then do we know what we truly fear. Only when our fears are named can we banish them.
St. Paul told his young protege Timothy that we Christians are given a spirit of courage. Heading in to Ash Wednesday, then Lent, are you brave enough to turn off the lights, to feel oneself lost in time, and know the morning is still a long way off?