Michael Leunig, an Australian cartoonist for the Melbourne, Australia paper, The Age, writes a prayer in a little book titled, A Common Prayer. He prays, “Dear God, Let us prepare for winter. The sun has turned away from us and the nest of summer hangs broken in a tree. Life slips through our fingers and, as darkness gathers, our hands grow cold. It is time to go inside. It is time for reflection and resonance. It is time for contemplation. Let us go inside. Amen.”
Leunig’s prayer is an invitation to turn inward. The season of winter, with its long dark nights invites us to turn inward to take time for personal prayer, deep reflection and restful quiet. And Advent is a time of turning inward, a time of waiting in hopeful expectation to see again how God dwells among us and within us. So, in this season of darkness, what happens when we wait?
Very often, waiting in the dark leaves me uncomfortable. I become aware that I am restless, and sometimes even anxious. I can feel lonely and isolated in the dark. And if I stay there long enough, I also become aware of a longing. If I am attentive to my longing, I discover more about who I am, and how God is creatively working in my life. This little journey in darkness can move me from being restless and anxious to touching into deeper longings and how God is waiting to meet there.
That is the interior movement happening in darkness. If I give time for something real to happen, time to be both silent and attentive – to the birds flying around my yard, and the thoughts flying around inside me – then God will show up. I can let go of everything I know in order to be carried by all that I do not know – the very flow of the mystery and true reality of life. What I discover if I wait in stillness and darkness is that what I need, I do not have to rush after, it is there all the time, and if we give it time, God will make it known to us. In the darkness I discover light. That is the paradox. That is the gift.
Some suggestions to guide this time:
- Quiet music might help you slow down and turn your attention inward.
- Notice your thoughts and pay attention to which one(s) catch your attention. Stay with these and talk to God about them.
- End with a simple prayer asking God to stay with you throughout the day and night.
- If you wish you may want to write about your experience in a journal book - only for you.
Joan Atkinson, csj