Thursday, December 22, 2011

Emerging from the longest night...

Our souls know long nights. Sometimes those are literal "long nights" when pain or worry have kept us from sleep. Other times, it is an emotional or spiritual "night" where we long for but cannot see any light to guide us. How often we have found ourselves lost in some sort of darkness and feared that we would never find a way out.

We have just emerged from the longest night of the year, passing through the Winter Solstice. People from ancient times to the present have celebrated this emergence for in it there is a sense of hope that comes in knowing that the day is now longer than the night. People of old sometimes believed there was an actual battle occurring and they waited anxiously to see if the sun would indeed be the victor. While this concept may seem primitive to us today, on another level it is something with which we are deeply familiar ... inner battles, the light and the dark, not knowing who will win.

I have been taking part in a lovely online Advent retreat this year. Jan Richardson, an incredible artist who was one of those guiding us, shared a blessing that I would like to share with you tonight, that it might strengthen you in your longest nights.

Blessing for the Longest Night

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

© Jan L. Richardson.
(thanks to Jan for allowing me to share this; more soon...)