Friday, March 18, 2011

It Starts in Darkness

So another St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone. If you listen closely, you’ll hear the Irish music still playing in the background. I’m wearing green again today because I didn’t have enough time yesterday to reflect on the many thoughts that the day brings to me. I know many folks don’t see St. Patrick’s Day as a time to reflect. For many, it’s a time to party, drink green beverages, party, have a parade and party some more. I don’t mind the occasional party but I haven’t marched in a parade since I was a child. If I see a green beverage, my first thought is that it’s gone bad.

So I find myself thinking Celtic-related thoughts about life. My friends know that I am very interested in Celtic expressions of faith and spirituality. There is an incredible depth to the spirituality of the ancient Celtic people and it profoundly affected how they viewed every aspect of their lives.

One of the more basic things to understand is that the Celts didn’t begin their day with sunrise – the day began with the darkness at sunset. They didn’t begin their year with January 1st – they began with November 1st. November was the beginning of the dark season. The harvest was gathered, and the land lay quiet and cold. The people waited for the dawn and the beginning of spring, but they understood that the process of renewal had already begun in the silence and darkness. It was in the quiet, lightless time that the earth was prepared for the explosion of spring and of life. 

Celtic Christianity and spirituality have spoken to me ever since I first encountered them. I have found a lot to which I can relate even though I am still just a beginner in my understanding. When it comes to the meaning of the darkness and silence of the new day or new year, I struggle. I don’t struggle because I don’t understand it. It’s because I do understand it that I struggle. I wrestle with the meaning that the darkness and inner cold have for my life and what it will mean when they pass.

I have been and still am in a period of darkness and silence. A period of my life is coming to an end as retirement looms in the next few months. I know, I know. I look much too young to retire. You’re right. Still, circumstances have made the retirement decision a necessity. I now find myself in a place of not knowing where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing in the future. I’ll need new employment. That may mean a new town and all the headaches of relocating. It means leaving a place of service and people that have been enormous parts of my life for nearly three decades. That brings its own kind of uncertainty and pain.

My children have grown up. The youngest is finishing her last year of college and is looking forward to her life. I’m glad of that she’s excited about the future. Still, it means that my role in her life will be changing forever. For years, I’ve been protector, advisor, a mover of stuff into and out of apartments, a fellow lover of movies and music and many other things. Now many of the things I used to be in her life are coming to an end, their days numbered. My son is making his home in another town and we hear from him on occasion if we're lucky. The darkness is encroaching upon another aspect of my life.

I’ve reached the age of 55 years. That’s an age that once would never have occurred to me. There was a time when age was only theoretical and I’d be young forever with a bright, shining road ahead. Now I’m sometimes startled to see the face looking back at me from the mirror. I’m younger than that in my mind. Why do the miles show so clearly?

So here I am only a few days from spring, according to the calendar and it’s dark. I pray to the God of the Celtic Christians who is the God of all of us that this is the darkness and silence that precede the light and music of soul-spring.

What is soul-spring? It’s a term that I use to mean the rebirth that follows the extended dark night of the soul, when the silence and cold prepare the soul to receive divine renewal. When is soul-spring? It is whenever God says it is for us. The darkness lasts for varying lengths of time for each of us. I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of the darkness that is the necessary beginning of life and light.

Please hurry, soul-spring.