“Surge like an ocean, don’t scatter yourself like a storm”

Search the Darkness

Sit with your friends, don’t go back to sleep.
Don’t sink like a fish to the bottom of the sea.
Surge like an ocean, don’t scatter yourself like a storm.
Life’s waters flow from darkness.
Search the darkness, don’t run from it.
Night travelers are full of light, and you are too:
don’t leave this companionship.
Be a wakeful candle in a golden dish,
don’t slip into the dirt like quicksilver.
The moon appears for night travelers,
be watchful when the moon is full.

-Rumi

We are moving toward the dark half of the year, and unlike those who love summer’s endless days, I find myself invigorated by this season.  I find myself wanting to search the darkness as Rumi invites us, to receive the life waters flowing from it.  The moon becomes my guide on this dark pilgrimage and I am initiated into the deeper mysteries of life.

In the process of writing my next book on lectio divina, I have been hungrily reading books on the contemplative life, on the Eastern Orthodox practice of hesychia, and on the apophatic path.  Apophasis is the way of darkness in Christian spirituality and has a deep and rich tradition among the mystics including Meister Eckhart and John of the Cross.  When we enter the wisdom of night we discover that all of our certainties about God are like sand easily scattered by the wind.  Darkness teaches us that God is so much larger than what we can imagine, that many of our beliefs have become idols, and that the call to a mature spirituality has more to do with surrendering our attachments than in gaining enlightenment.  We live in a world where certainties about God are the impulse behind violent acts and the violation of people’s dignity.  Perhaps if we all recognized that the way of unknowing was the necessary complement to the way of images and knowing, we would act with more humility and be less willing to speak for God.

This is the call of the monk in the world: to live in the paradox of knowing deeply the indwelling presence of the sacred in the heart of each person and of recognizing our absolute inability to ever know the  fullness of God who transcends time and space.  As an artist, I will always be called to honor the holy in art and poetry, celebrating the multiplicity of God’s names.  As a monk, I am called to stand humbly in absolute awe before the One who is beyond names, who is even beyond what I understand by “beyond.”

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