Monday, January 19, 2015

Darkness As a Kind of Light

There is certainly no shortage of evil so far in 2015. Why does God allow it? Seems no explanation can suffice at times. It’s certainly better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, but should we be cursing the darkness in the first place? I wonder. Like any mystery, darkness can be invitation to the mind.

St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that good signifies “perfect being” and evil signifies “the privation of perfect being”, so when someone acts with a lack of love, or a thing lacks something it ought to have, we perceive the deficiency as evil. For example, blindness is evil for a human because a human ought to have sight. Blindness or darkness relates to evil as vision or light relates to good. No allegory is perfect, but darkness as an allegory for evil is eerily close because no one can really give or bring evil, just as no one can give or bring darkness, one can only take away light.

Darkness is what leads us to seek light provided that we have the right disposition; it can open our hearts and make answers possible for us; it leads to knowledge. Since the mind is made for Truth, it tends to move in that direction if there is nothing to stop it, and darkness need not stop it, but nudge it forward instead. Darkness becomes a kind of light whenever it helps us to see.

We need a certain comfort level with darkness if we are to be led properly. If we insist on peering ahead on our path, calculating each step and determining our own goal, we forsake the guiding hand of God that will take us beyond our expectations.

I once happened upon a labyrinth while out for a stroll at a retreat center. If you don’t know, a labyrinth is a pathway which leads, via a winding route, to the center of an intricate design and back out again. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has only a single path so it is impossible to get lost. The walls or edges keep you on the path. Once you reach the center, you have gone half the distance – you now turn around and walk back out.

Although the origins of labyrinth are pagan, I found it both thought-provoking and challenging to accept some “unknowing” and stay in the moment of each step, trusting that the path would guide me to the goal (the center) and back out again. My instinct was to peer ahead to see where the path was taking me, to calculate how much further I needed to go or how long it might take.

Without at least some acceptance of darkness we’ll try and shake free of that guidance that is trying to lead us to union with God and perhaps travel down a false spiritual path that becomes a mere figment of our imagination.

Once a soul basks in the light of God’s presence (beatific vision), he or she may come to know that the death of a person may have been a rescue of some greater evil had they lived. A painful romantic breakup may have been salvation from an unhappy marriage. The loss of wealth may have meant saving your soul from eternal loss. If you were blind and suddenly got your sight back, even the ugliest things would be appreciated.

“I will lead the blind on a way they do not know; by paths they do not know I will guide them. I will turn darkness into light before them, and make crooked ways straight. These are my promises: I made them, I will not forsake them” (Is 42:16)

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