Denis the Areopagite (late 5th to early 6th Century) wrote about plunging into the darkness: terrifying – if darkness is only about evil and death, meaningless suffering or getting lost.
I remember walking back along a track late one night with a Ugandan friend to where I was staying. It had just stopped raining but heavy clouds were still blocking out any faint glimmer of light from the sky. There were no street lights, no light pollution and we didn’t have a torch. It was pitch black – the kind where you can’t even “see your hand in front of your face”. I knew there were potholes, which would now be puddles, as well as sticky mud and bends in the track which all needed negotiating, and then, somewhere, I had to find the turn off to the house. But I didn’t even know where the track was! Kokas, who could somehow see, took my hand and led me. It was difficult to walk with any confidence as I had no idea where my feet were going, so I had to trust myself to Kokas. Amazingly, we got back to the house safely, without getting lost or slipping or tripping over, and avoiding the deepest mud and puddles! I could not have taken even one step forward without Kokas holding my hand.
Darkness is not the absence of God. Darkness is where God is. I believe it is actually where God starts!
In the beginning, “darkness was upon the face of the deep” (Genesis 1). Most of the created universe is darkness – and seemingly empty space. Darkness and space are an integral part of creation and life. But we struggle in all sorts of ways in the dark, and with darkness. We don’t often recognise God in darkness. So God emerged from the darkness of the womb and revealed God’s self – as Jesus, the true Light of the world, the Light of Christ.
Life, often hidden, is present in the darkness and apparently empty spaces. The seed is put into darkness. New life starts and grows in darkness before emerging into the light, whether it is the birth of a baby or corn sprouting in the field.
So plunge into the darkness – back to the beginning, where new life starts. Everything is stripped away. Trust is the only way we can begin to explore the dark, to live and move, to grow and find our way in the dark. There are treasures to be discovered in the dark. God is discovered in the dark. “I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of the secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, who call you by name, am GOD” (Isaiah 45:3).
“As we plunge into that darkness which is beyond intellect, we shall find ourselves not simply running short of words but actually speechless and unknowing.” (Denis the Areopagite)
Darkness is as necessary as light. Can light even exist without darkness? What is light? Light is someting to do with the release and flow of energy and power. Light gives and shares its energy. Christ is the Light of the world revealed as energy and love in the depth of darkness, revealed as Jesus to the world.
If we are not already in the darkness, dare we plunge into the darkness, trusting we can discover love which has no limits of depth. May we discover the treasures of darkness, God within, the hidden presence of Christ. Somehow, the energy and power, the love and life that is the Light of the world, will be released and emerge, to be seen and experienced.