On Hope and the Dimming Light of December

Heart

Photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha on Unsplash

The light is dimming and the season of interruption is upon us. If you celebrate the holidays of this season, there is interruption. For me, both the lack of outer light and the holiday season can feel both welcome and frustrating. Yet, as the light grows softer, the darkness longer each day leading up to the Winter Solstice, I note these interruptions as an offering made to awaken the eyes of my heart. The eyes of the heart see what is normally living in shadow in our bright, glaring world. The eyes of the heart are willing to remain still in the darkness in order to be transformed and awakened to the great connection of all to all. When the outer eyes become overwhelmed in times of darkness–times of suffering and doubt– and grasp at habitual ways of scurrying toward anything that feels like light, we might learn to grow more still, much like the earth during this season, to awaken the eyes of the heart and feel our way toward a softer, more illuminated understanding of our self and of life.

I know that as the sunlight ebbs this season, it will also return. I trust in this because I’ve witnessed it year after year. Just as the sun’s light returns, I have witnessed, too, in great darkness the light of a great and abundant community coming year after year, returning for a collective rising of the heart’s light, to shine some measure of hope upon someone for whom darkness must feel consuming. I am speaking of the Winter Solstice event, the yearly event in which we welcome all to join as we flow with music, movement, meditation, an abundance of food, drink, and love, for two main reasons–to raise money for someone who needs our collective light; and, to come together in unity with others in a way that shines some light into our own dark places.

Last year in our gathering, we connected with Annie Cropper Vaughn, whose walk with breast cancer was overwhelming her physically and financially. I followed her journey through the year, and was blessed to read of her renewed hope and strengthened spirit that came from so many people shining the light of love into her life.

This week, I’ve been reading Richard Rohr’s contemplations on the Advent season, and the dimming light within nature. He wrote, “We must all hope and work to eliminate suffering, especially in many of the great social issues of our time. We work to eliminate world hunger. We strive to stop wasting the earth’s resources. We peacefully fight to end violence. We don’t ignore or capitulate to suffering, yet we must allow it to transform us and the world. Suffering often shapes and teaches us and precedes most significant resurrections.”

I’ve written recently of some of the ways suffering has overwhelmed me too. Yet, it’s when I don’t turn away, or in turning away I pause to turn back again, that I discover true light–connection, deep love, a compassionate heart that is willing to beat with the heart of another. There have been times that this pause feels like a kind of death–yet, it isn’t. Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun, wrote, “The light we gain in darkness is the awareness that, however bleak the place of darkness was for us, we did not die there. We know now that life begins again on the other side of the darkness. Another life. A new life. After the death, the loss, the rejection, the failure, life does go on. Differently, but on. Having been sunk into the cold night of . . . despair—and having survived it—we rise to new light, calm and clear and confident that what will be, will be enough for us.”

And so I continue to hope and to trust that in coming together on nights like the Winter Solstice gathering, the light we create is enough for that time and for some person or family with whom we might deeply connect.

She,
In the dark,
Found light
Brighter than many ever see.
She,
Within herself,
Found loveliness,
Through the soul’s own mastery.
And now the world receives
From her dower:
The message of the strength
Of inner power.

—Langston Hughes

Friends, I hope you’ll join us on December 21st for our annual Winter Solstice event in Shepherdstown. Each year, this event reminds and reveals to me, that I am not there to “help” someone else. Year after year, my scurrying life is interrupted in order to come together with the community, and in that interruption I receive a hefty dose of hope and a reminder of just how bright love can be. While the outer light shines quietly that night, our communal heart light is warm and bright. We have so much more power together when we can remember this. As it is written in the lovely book, The Little Prince, “One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”