It's already two weeks since the longest night, and we are, supposedly, inching our way towards longer days. This is far from evident, though, as permanently grey skies and gloomy, wet weather have left us spending our days in semi-darkness, with only a few hours of daylight per day. It's easy to understand why some animals spend this time hibernating - curling up into a long, cosy sleep feels like a seductively good idea!
Of course, we know that there is a reason for this darkness; that it is part of nature's annual cycle, and a time not only of endings and death but of new growth and regeneration. It is a time when we must live in faith, unable to see the new life teeming within the earth, but believing that spring will soon come. This doesn't always make the unremitting greyness any easier, though, especially with so much pain in the world and dismal news of increased terrorism, fear and intolerance, growing poverty and heavy flooding here in England and elsewhere in the world.
The other day, as I walked home in an early afternoon twilight, some words came to me: He works in darkness... They were written in 1956 by Marie-Therese de Lescure, Superior General of the Society in the years after World War II, and in the first decade of the Cold War. She was undoubtedly a deeply prayerful, spiritual woman, but - reading between the lines of her letters and conferences - one whose prayer life was largely dark and austere. In 1956, not long before her death, she wrote a letter to the Society centred on the need for faith, in which she repeated those words: He works in darkness.
Here's some of what she wrote:
HE WORKS IN DARKNESS
- the darkness in which we spend so much of our religious life, the darkness of an often austere prayer, of the monotony of our daily work, of our struggles and our acts of self-conquest, at times our lack of apparent progress...
- the darkness of apostolic labour with its... growing difficulties... its rare moments of relief...
- the darkness of the disconcerting paucity of the resources at the disposal of the forces of good, compared with the abundant resources and apparent triumph of evil on earth...
And then this catalogue of darkness ends with this belief: Heavy and impenetrable as this darkness may seem here below, we know and we believe that He is at work. This is the power of our faith, for He said: "I am the Light."
I read on: and found that this part of the letter ended with a firm declaration of faith, repeated twice:
ALL IS LOVE... This is the light of His work that shines through our darkness... In this light Love pursues its own plan and accomplishes its own work.
He works in darkness - and within that, all is love.