This is the time of the year that can be a pro or a con for most people. It’s the season when the year actually goes from having more light than dark to the time when there is more dark than light. Some folks are really challenged by that, others look forward to beautiful fall color and the holidays to come. October and November are months which physically remind us that there are times when everything is not bright and beautiful. The light filled days of spring and summer are gone and won’t be back for a very long time. The time for the “death of the world’ with not a trace of green (life) is approaching in a very real way.
In the natural world, unstoppable cycles occupy time and space. The march of the seasons is one of these. Whether you realize it or not, the human body and heart responds to this change in an echo of genes planted millennia ago. We have, built into our bones, an automatic response to the way creation functions. As for myself, I get a little crabby when the gray rolls in and I look up and see that it is pitch dark at 4:00 p.m. Some folks even get diagnosed with SAD, a real medical condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Maybe you’ve never noticed this in yourself or maybe it’s taken a while for you to figure out that this is the cause of your “change of attitude” in the latter part of the year. I even feel like this change has become more magnified as I age. If you are one of the few who is not influenced by the coming of the dark it is still good to realize that the people around us may well be affected by this atmospheric change.
It is no surprise that the Church also has a response to the encroaching darkness. The first of November is the beginning of a community remembrance, recollection and celebration. On November 1 we observe the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls on November 2. We are invited to recognize the presence of those we love and those who have set the Church on fire with their love of God. At the end of November we move into Advent and a real sense that the light we are missing is drawing closer as we make the journey together. In December the light Himself becomes manifest for all of us and we celebrate one of the two most joy filled times of the year. Starting with the shepherds, images of light bombard the Christmas story. We extend our celebration with the Magi and Epiphany. We have traveled with those in the world who don’t know Him. We are also reminded that those richer, wiser and older have made the choice to follow the light and found it to be a “life altering event”. They laid their eyes on the divine child and literally escaped from death.
In this changing world, we are invited to celebrate, as community, and join with others who have a keen awareness of the light that is the unseen reality. The Liturgical seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany show us that the Light still exists and is not a temporary condition but something that is always present whether we can see it or not. We are the body of believers and the ones who live out and animate the coming of the light even when we are immersed in the darkness.
Though the darkness might be what we see, it is more important to focus on what we don’t see. In the unseen reality of spiritual life, light is present and a dynamic nurturing force. Do you have the courage to pay more attention to the reality that is unseen rather than what is observable all around you? In the dark of the year be a gift to the world and “bring the light”. Take advantage of all that the Church and its Liturgy can offer you. Teach your friends and those around you that darkness is only a temporary condition and was never real in the first place. “While you still have the light, believe in the light and you will become sons of the light.” (Jn 12:36)