Holy Darkness

As we move to the end of the season of Lent and into the Holy Week between Palm Sunday and Easter, I want to share with you two panels that Sylvia has created to enhance our worship at our home church. They seek to open up the meaning of “darkness,” a word we often use to describe the fearful chaos into which so much of our political world has entered in the past two years.

Here are her reflections on the two panels:

We often speak of God as light. We are told to “walk in the light.” If God is everywhere present, is God not also present in darkness, even darkness we do not understand? If we find God in nature, in a leaf or in a baby, should we not also seek to find God in an expanding universe?

In the course of a year, there is an equal amount of light and darkness. We long for the warmth of the sun, yet much of life seems to be generated in darkness. We were each conceived and grew in the darkness of a womb. Seeds generate in the darkness of soil. Why do we find darkness such a fearsome place, where things “go bump in the night” and perhaps danger lurks?

Scientist tells us that our universe is composed of 68% dark energy. Another 27% is dark matter. Everything else ever seen by humankind—stars, planets, galaxies— makes up the remaining 5%. Space is not empty and is not nothing.

The remaining 95% is also a part of God’s mysterious and wonderful creation and yet scientists admit that they scarcely have a clue as to its purpose or composition. It seems to be the force that causes our universe to expand at an every increasing speed.

In the liturgical year we celebrate both times of light and of dark. We use these words in both a metaphorical way and as a way to represent objective reality. We also use them to describe psychological and spiritual states. I find that their meanings bleed into each other and it is not easy to think of them separately.

Some believe they influence our thinking on race and other instances where “light” is good and “dark” is bad. I argue that both are good and necessary although each also contains the possibility of danger. We think we understand something of the nature and purpose of the 5%. What are we to make of the completely mysterious 95%, whose purpose and characteristics are unknown?

These panels invite you to consider the ways in which we think of darkness as well as the place of individuals, the church, and earthly creation in a larger context. Each panel is composed of two parts.

The front panel is made of painted Tyvek and suggests the flow of energy as well as observable objects. The underlying panel is composed of several layers of sheer fabric, painted, to show new possibilities behind the presenting darkness.

For further reflection on darkness, see Learning to Walk in the Dark, by Barbara Brown Taylor.

5 thoughts on “Holy Darkness”

  1. Thank you, Bill, for these moving reflections and for the images of Sylvia’s stunning work.

  2. A hello from the past, Bill. I am struck by the pairing of your writing and the images of your beloved. How sweet that you walk this path together holding hands.

  3. Sylvia, I’m drawn to the infinite depth in your panels, and warmth of the darkness (not cold as I would expect). The beacons of light somehow shelter the darkness rather than the other way around. Entering the darkness envelopes me in simply the truth of a reality. Really spectacular work.Congratulations.

  4. Hi Bill. I enjoyed your blog very much. I signed up. I write a weekly chronicle
    that deals with climate change and spirituality. You can see my chronicles on my website. If you open the chronicles link and go to the bottom you will find 34 past chronicles and at the bottom of the list on the right hand side is a sign-up link. (chronicle 30 and 34 are about two of my Milwaukee East Side adventures.) I thought you might find them of interest and relevant to your own work. Cheers–Mike

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