An Advent Guided Meditation

ADVENT by Mark Roper

Open the door

And there they are,

Each with a gift

Of itself

Darkness. Stillness. Silence.

So patiently

They wait their turn,

Forever at

The edge of things

Darkness. Stillness. Silence.

Turn out the light,

Invite them in,

Bow your head, be

Their anointed

Darkness. Stillness. Silence.

The idea of a quiet morning is to have a quiet pocket of space just to be. Mark Roper talks of Darkness. Stillness. Silence…and yet our world is often constant bright lights, movement and noise. A quiet time or retreat allows us to turn aside from that, as Moses did at the Burning Bush. Frivolous as it may sound, how different would the Old Testament be if Moses had seen the burning bush and thought “that’s odd, but I better crack on, lots to do…”


Emily Dickinson had sight problems by her thirties, and wrote of light sensitivity and aching eyes. The next poem has special resonance then for her and us, about seeing and really seeing.

We grow accustomed to the Dark

We grow accustomed to the Dark—
When Light is put away—
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye—

A Moment—We uncertain step
For newness of the night—
Then—fit our Vision to the Dark—
And meet the Road—erect—

And so of larger—Darknesses—
Those Evenings of the Brain—
When not a Moon disclose a sign—
Or Star—come out—within—

The Bravest—grope a little—
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead—
But as they learn to see—

Either the Darkness alters—
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight—
And Life steps almost straight.

We grow accustomed to the Dark

Wednesday will be the winter solstice ,the shortest day and longest night, ( the hibernal solstice) when Earths  pole reaches its maximum tilt away from the Sun. The church understood this well, and located Christmas in late December when the light begins to grow. John the Baptist is celebrated late June, when the light is about to decrease. All this reflects John’s words about Jesus that “…he must become greater, and I must become less.”

I grew up on a busy main road into Belfast with a streetlight just outside my window. I never really knew what darkness was, and was not overly fond of it. I was cured as a young Rector in West Cork when locking the church was done in the pitch black, from memory, by intuition and by more tactile means. You could not see your hand in front of your face, or the bats swooping above.

When have you experienced real darkness?

Perhaps you sought it out to see stars more clearly…

Maybe a power cut…

Emily Dickinson draws the picture and experience well, the uncertain step…and then comes the transition

And so of larger—Darknesses—
Those Evenings of the Brain—

Now she moves from that experience to the terrain of thinking, feeling, and the language of the soul; much like the Psalms do by painting a picture for us that we are sheep, and that we are in a dark valley – but that we are going through that valley, and we are not alone. (Psalm 23) The physical experience reflects to us the terrain of the soul, when we can feel lost and alone.

Advent is a time of seeing in the dark. The poem playfully suggests two ways of seeing

The Bravest—grope a little—
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead—

The first we might describe as bumps and jolts. Some things knock some sense into us.

Other more serious events jolt us, dislocate us. We can see and learn in these too. Bereavement, relational difficulties, illness, depression, uncertainty and more can be dark times. Yet as the Psalm says we are not alone, and we are going through to light and pasture.

We might acknowledge to ourselves our bumps and jolts in 2022. We might simply name them in prayer.

The second way of seeing she describes as

But as they learn to see—

Either the Darkness alters—
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight—

Jesus drew the distinction between seeing and really seeing. “He who has eyes to see, let him see, and he who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

William Blake wrote ; “if the doors of perception were cleansed then everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern”.

Mark 8 Jesus Cures a Blind Man at Bethsaida

They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’ And the man looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.     Here Jesus heals someone without sight who can then partially see, and then finally see clearly. It comes immediately before Peter proclaims Jesus the Messiah (seeing who Jesus is) and then opposing what Jesus says he will do and suffer (not seeing how he will be the messiah).

Sometimes we cannot see at all, and sometimes we are only seeing partially. Sometimes the world around us seems so dark, and the news so harsh that we do not know how to see in the dark. Yet that is the symbolism of Advent and its candles. One candle in a large cathedral at night. So much darkness, so little light – but where do our eyes go? And if we hold that light in front of us, we can go anywhere. And if we light another candle with it, and then another…the light grows, and the darkness is turned back.

So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 

Take time to read this verse from 2 Peter slowly and prayerfully.

There are three lights here.

Light shining in a dark place, as we have just been thinking about. Light that comforts, guides and warms us in difficult times.

The light of dawn, a new day and a new beginning. Light that enables us to start again.         By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ (Benedictus)

…and then there is the Morning Star rising within our hearts.

In these beautiful and mystical words we are shown not only a light beside us, or coming upon us, but rising within us.

Light a candle and reflect on these lights – the light you have known in dark places, the light and hope of a new beginning and then…sit quietly and welcome Jesus, the bright and morning star to rise within you, those you love, and all in need, near and far.

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