O Joyful Dark (Skotós Hiláron)

"I am dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem."
~Song of Solomon 1:5

There is an early Christian hymn - some scholars believe the earliest known to us - 'Phos Hiláron,' O Joyful Light. But my hymn shall be called 'Skotós Hiláron,' O Joyful Dark.

Here in the North it is the first of December, only 21 days until the longest night. I am plunged in the dark, even as I wake in the morning. Yet at no other time of year do I resonate with such a glowing inwardness. The mystery is, this secret ray does not descend from above, but percolates up from my hollowest core.

The outward Christic flame that illumined the green world of summer, ripening fruit and grain, has now withdrawn to the bowels of creation, to rest in a night of luminous possibility, awaiting rebirth at the Winter Solstice.

Darkness is holy, and pregnant with noon. The mystics of the Church spoke of "divine darkness": Gregory of Nyssa, Dionysius the Aereopogyte, Meister Eckhart, Jan Ruysbroek, Hildegard of Bingen, Mechtilde of Magdeburg, Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross. Yet they were not speaking of a depressed emotional state.

For the divine darkness is not unhappiness or despair. Despair requires a "me." But the dark night of the soul is far more interior than any emotion, any "me" who could even say, "I am unhappy."

This dark night is groundless, centerless, un-created, the heart hollowed out to make room for God. With no root in any-thing, it is an inward fall toward no bottom, no soil. Yet the bitter herb that grows in the dark ferments into the only lasting sweetness.

This dark night is the silence inside the bell, never knelled, never touched by external hand. Yet the sound of awakening comes from here. The unstruck silence trembles, and its fluctuation in the vacuum swells into a photon, the photon into a star.

The poem of the cosmos is a never-ending series of similies for emptiness. I am a berry at the tip of a naked twig tonight. Or is it morning? I cannot tell. I am sap dreaming in the reed sheathed in ice. I am the sunken fire that plummeted to seed, raptured downward. I am not the absence, but the womb of light.

Why do we call this season "Advent"? Because we hear in abysmal night the herald of rebirth. We devote each expectant sunrise, each fading vesper, to the pregnant Mother Mary. Her very name is a bell. Mary, Maris, Ocean, Sea of Night who bears the Morning Star. Mother, Mater, Matter's dark energy, mystery of our flesh. Antipodes of Spirit? No. Unknow. Unveil duality as one. The body contained in the Spirit it contains. Selah.

"Breath" and "Spirit" the same word in both Biblical Hebrew and Greek: "Ruach," "Pneuma." Inspiration of sod, for "Adam" means "dust." What could be filled if not a hollow? And what could be hollow that has no rind or husk? And how would I ever know light if I had not become darkness?

Lungs are empty, heart is empty, belly empty, dark and empty sacred organs of procreation. Dark and empty atom of my body. Dark and empty to be filled with Prana, Holy Spirit, gift of the morning. Dark and hollow the seed, to unfold its secret embryo, the Sun.

One proton of my flesh a chaos of quarks, an infinitesimal galaxy of bright worlds. Every sub-nuclear particle of Mother's dark matter an ineluctable weightlessness of gravity waves, singing filaments of fire from no-thing.

O unutterable negation, O fortune of emptiness, O divine womb where "I" am drowned in Christ, nurtured in the ocean of blackness, and reborn in silence, the very silence of this ancient Now, before creation, when dawn awakens the brave song of a wing-wounded soul: "Let there be light!"

Within me, or just beyond my window? Or both? That stricken creature, who could not fly Southward toward warmth, but lingered in the night, to greet this Winter dawn. All the more beautiful to hear, because she has a wounded wing. My very listening is God.

No comments: