Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church
Col. 1:13: “He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son….”
We live in a world that is terrified of the dark. Most people now in the “advanced” nations never really see darkness. Once an urban visitor to the monastery where I was living in the forests of northern California arrived in his car, turned off the engine –and the lights – and realized he could see nothing. There were no outside lights, it was raining and night. Pitch dark. We are not used to this anymore: there are always lights, everywhere.
And so we fail to appreciate how precious light is, and how real darkness can be. In fact, that which we call “light” is really only darkness compared with the light of God – and vice versa. Mystics are at pains to describe the mysterious light of God as a ‘divine darkness,’ a “bright darkness.” St. Ignatius, echoing the wisdom of St. Paul, teaches that a favorite tactic of the enemy of our human nature is to present himself as an “angel of light.”
Think of the garish lights of the “pleasure districts” of our cities, the odd light that emanates from TV screens, the eerie orange anti-crime lights of high crime areas in our cities. The lights of this world are really as darkness compared with the true light of Christ. And this is a metaphor for the true life we find in Christ. The “lights” of this age are really darkness: we have to close our eyes to them in order to have them opened to the light of God. To turn to God, we must turn away from the fallen world, to fast from false light, in order to enter into true light. Each calls the other darkness: which light do we choose?
Once his eyes got used to the dark of the rainy forest, my visitor saw the lights of the church, where the monks were gathered in the candlelight, singing vespers. He saw the light.