Look to God and be radiant. The Dark Night of the Soul, the love poem of St. John of the Cross, beautifully describes an encounter with Jesus at a most dark moment in his life. It was only in the darkest place that the light of God’s love became visible, with more radiance than he could have ever before perceived—and it changed him, transformed him:
O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.
But, in the seventh stanza, John of the Cross discovers that all his other senses muddied and dulled his ability to know the touch of Jesus, the joy of God’s embrace, even if, at first contact, it seems painful:
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.
Just as peace is known only when time and space are suspended, when I can stand outside time in the presence of a timeless God in order to truly be within it, so is joy only known when all my senses are suspended. That is, when I am no longer encumbered by anxiety, weighted down by expectations (real or imagined), insecurities and arrogance—when all these no longer encase me, I am free to know the gentle caress of Love, I can understand what it means to know joy—real joy.
This week of Advent we mediate on the joy that the birth of Jesus recalls. Tonight also begins the first of Chanukah. Recited only on the first night is this third prayer, “Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.”
My prayer is that the light that miraculously sustained the Jews for eight nights, and the third Advent light of Joy, will keep us mindful of what this season is about: standing outside time and space, free from the senses that threaten to dull us to the touch of Jesus’ gentle hand, and know the Joy of truly living! Amen.