A deep but dazzling darkness, as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they
See not all clear.
O for that night! where I in Him
Might live invisible and dim!
From The Night by Henry Vaughan
The slanting winter sun turns my walks to Mass into an obstacle course. As I head into the city centre sunlight suddenly blazes from a side street or from above a building, right into my eyes. Despite my photochromic lenses I am temporarily blinded, surrounded by a dazzling darkness; even people disappear, only appearing a second or so before I would otherwise blunder into them. Is this, I wonder, what St Paul meant when he wrote about seeing through a glass darkly...?
The brilliant sunlight lends a superb clarity to everything, whilst simultaneously disorientating. The only way to avoid being dazzled is to forsake the sun's warmth and walk deliberately in the shadows. And as I do so I find myself recalling some lines from the hymn Immortal, invisible:
O help us to see:
’Tis only the splendour of light hideth Thee.
A disorientating, dazzling darkness... a splendour of light hiding the One True Light...
As I walk, undazzled, in the chilly darkness of the shadows I can see everything, including the sun - but I can't feel its heat, although I undoubtedly benefit from its effects. And so I also find myself thinking of my prayer: a still journey, faith-based, mysterious yet perfectly natural, in a darkness filled with clarity; a journey in which I know God is ever-present, even though I cannot see him - but in which I receive the benefit of his presence. A journey in which, like Thomas Merton, I too can say Your brightness is my darkness. I know nothing of You and, by myself, I cannot even imagine how to go about knowing You... The darkness is enough...