Into the darkness we must go

Into the darkness we must go

This piece was written for and spoken at the third of three Lenten chapels at CMU this spring, with the theme “Darkness in Community.” It is primarily a spoken piece; the transcript is provided for reference.

-Samantha Peters

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Into the darkness we must go;

Gone, gone is the light.

Into the darkness we must go;

Gone, gone is the light.

These are the lyrics of the song by Gord Johnson that ends every Sunday evening service at saint benedict’s table during Lent. Somber words that we sing as our priest makes his way to each lit candle in the church, and snuffs it out. I remember feeling a surge of resistance the first time I experienced this. Surely a church service should move from darkness to light, not the other way around. Surely we should be sent out with a promise of hope, not an assertion that the light is gone. At the very least, surely we are expected to carry a candle into the darkness…. But no: Gone, gone is the light.

It’s now my third season walking with this church through Lent, and the song still troubles me. What is it calling us to? For whom is it true that the light is gone? We must ask this question because it’s not that “Into the darkness we may go if we so choose,” but “Into the darkness we must go.”

For whom is it true that the light is gone?

It may be true for those who are lonely:

Those for whom company is scarce,

Or whose communities reject them.

Into the dull darkness of loneliness we must go.

It may be true for those who suffer chronic pain:

Those who feel their body has betrayed them,

Or who know that their suffering cannot be cured, only endured.

Into the agonizing darkness of pain we must go.

The light may be gone for those who suffer depression:

Those whose illness convinces them they are worth less than others,

And for whom the shame of their struggle drives them into even lower spirits.

 Into the cruel darkness of depression we must go.

The light may be gone for those who are trapped:

In an abusive relationship,

Or in slavery,

Or in cycles of poverty,

Or in systems of corruption;

Those for whom no escape is in sight.

Into the crippling darkness of being trapped we must go.

Often, when we enter into darkness with people who are lonely, or in pain, or depressed, or trapped, or in some other place where the light is gone – often our impulse is to say, “It’s going to get better,” – but when that just isn’t true, the well-intended encouragement sounds cheap. Sometimes we want to say, “Jesus has risen from the grave and defeated death,” – but when the other simply cannot receive this news because it looks as though death still very much has the upper hand, this can feel alienating. Our efforts to bring hope can come off as an attempt at a quick fix, an attempt to chase away the darkness because of fear or discomfort. But darkness is the truth of some of our lives, and we who live in the darkness long more than anything for someone just to dwell with us there for a time in companionship.

Bruce Cockburn has a lyric that goes like this:

Sometimes the best map will not guide you,

You can’t see what’s round the bend;

Sometimes the road leads through dark places,

Sometimes the darkness is your friend.

It’s true that part of our call is to proclaim our bold hope in the Easter Day resurrection and, to quote another of Cockburn’s lyrics, “to kick at the darkness ‘till it bleeds daylight.” But part of our call is also to seek out those for whom hope is far off, those who live in the heavy truth of Good Friday, and to dwell with them in their darkness. For it may turn out that the darkness is a friend.

Ultimately, the people who live in darkness are not an Other, they are us. Ultimately, the road leads through dark places for each of us. We all will face grief, pain, and finally our own deaths. We all will find ourselves in the dark, be it our own or that of our community, and will be faced with the choice to chase it away or to seek the wisdom of its company. May it be that we come to know darkness as a friend, and may we seek out the companionship of each other as we dwell there.

Into the darkness we must go;

Gone, gone is the light.


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