Advent is a time to honour both light and dark. Today, in our over illuminated world, few of us have the opportunity to experience the dark. And I am not just talking about the physical reality but also of the psychological reality- our dark, our inner, depth dimension.
Over the last 500 years, Christianity has ignored the dark and opted for the more accessible bright half of ourselves – the light, the white, the angelic – purity, is what mattered rather then the dark brutal gods within.
The neglect of this arena is devastating in its consequences – we have witnessed some in these in recent times – it has also led to serious disillusionment with the church and I am with Sara Grant when she says: “it is the inability of the Church to deal with the depth dimension of human experience which largely accounts for its loss of credibility today.” The darkness has been systematically ignored. Not only ignored but the church has failed to provide people with the capacity to deal with it. Get on with it – say your prayers don’t mind the dark.
In this scenario it is not surprising that people are turning to other religions and practices which do take this inner world seriously. We have to befriend the dark – take our darkness seriously because it is part of who we are – we are hybrid creatures – creatures of light and dark and we can’t ignore one half of ourselves and live credible lives.
Five hundred years ago, mystics were grappling with this dark, mystical world – St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross. And today we have Rahner suggesting, rightly I think, that “the Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all.” In the early church the liturgy was the “objective point of entry into genuine Christian mysticism.” I don’t need to go to India, or further east, to find the mystical, to encounter the dark or to learn how to manage it. We have our own rich mystical tradition all we need to do is use it. Advent is a good time to recover this rich tradition.