Satellite images of the earth taken at night reveal how much of the earth is lit up during the hours of darkness. One of the unfortunate consequences of this phenomenon is that it becomes a real challenge for the avid stargazer to find locations free of light pollution in which to view the stars in all their glory. Accordingly, (and somewhat paradoxically) darkness can be a precondition for the manifestation or revealing of light. Thus, Saint Augustine notes that Jesus the Light of the World was born in the darkness of a Bethlehem night, and likewise rose from the tomb in the dead of a Jerusalem night—thereby scattering the darkness and, like the Dayspring from on high, heralding the dawn of an Eternal Day.
Our hearts still have unredeemed regions of darkness under the sway of sin and evil. And whereas many live unaware of these dark regions, we who take our spiritual lives seriously, become increasingly aware of our inner darkness. As we know, this is not a pleasant experience and our natural tendency is to flee the darkness within in our valiant search for light and relief from this inner oppression. And yet, it is in the depths of that inner darkness that Christ is both born and ultimately rises triumphant as Lord and King of our resurrected hearts. This image of Christ being born in the darkness of our unredeemed hearts is another way of describing his insistence that the divine physician comes to seek out the sick and not the healthy.
And, as Christ who is Light is born in the darkness of our hearts (through Baptism and conversion) so his light gradually dispels the darkness. This long and painful enlightening calls for patient endurance and a willingness to resist the temptation to prematurely consider the battle won. In the words of John of Forde, if we say that we have a great light in us, when really it is only a little light, we would have to fear that what was little would shrink from littleness into nothingness, and in a little while become darkness [again]. Instead, he urges, that if we would be worthy of being sons/daughters of light, then we must bewail the darkness which still closes us in on every side.
Yet, there is another darkness that paradoxically follows in the wake of the enlightening begun by Christ being born in the darkness of our hearts. As the mystics remind us, the true light that now begins to shine ever more vibrantly in our hearts is initially experienced as darkness—a darkness wrought by the sheer brilliance of the divine light that blinds the still unpurified inner vision of our hearts. Thus, in the words of an anonymous Carthusian, once accepted, this darkness, which reason calls darkness (but which God calls light), begins to glow, and becomes the lovely radiance of the approaching dawn of eternity.
For, it is from the midst of this ray of divine “darkness” that Christ will one day rise triumphant in hearts finally purified of sin and healed of blindness. In the meantime, we struggle on, aware, as Saint Gregory the Great notes that at present we tend to be what he calls ‘dawn’ or ‘dayspring’? We do some things which are of the light, but we are still not free from some remains of the darkness. But this is progress and, therefore, let us take heart and (in the words of Galatians) not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. Or, in those summoning words from Ephesians: Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.