The Darkest Day
Fr. Joseph Illo
Today is the year’s darkest day, the Winter Solstice. It is pouring rain in southern California, and a gray light is just creeping through the air as I enter the chapel for morning holy hour. When the days are dark, we must darken the doors of our churches for light and strength. Anything less (as in that little glowing “rectangular demon” in your pocket) will not suffice.
Last night was the longest night, but today the new year dawns, and days will begin growing lighter and longer for the next six months. It is worth the effort to get up before sunrise, or rise before the grey dawn, in order to see light spread over the land. It is said that John Paul II, who grew to manhood in the darkness of Nazi and Soviet oppression, rose early enough each morning to watch the sun rise over the City of Rome.
In the Old Testament, the morning was the time of God’s glory. “His mercies are renewed each morning” the psalmist sings, and so also Jeremiah cries out from the depths of his lamentation. Do not let the darkness overcome you, because He causes the sun to rise each morning.
Last week I sat on a rooftop overlooking the Pacific Ocean to do my morning prayers. As new light filtered from the East, cormorants bobbed in the never-ceasing waves from the west. These plucky birds serenely sat upon the surge but knew exactly when to slip beneath the exploding water. I laughed out loud to see these little black birds ride a wave right up to the peak of its break, and then, if they were just a foot too forward, deftly dive under the breaker. Who taught them how to do that? Who made these simple avians better surfers than the finest of our young men? Who taught the pelicans to fly in formation just above the breaking waves so as to catch the updraft in their wide wings? Truly God is great, and His mercies are renewed each morning.
There seems to be a spreading darkness in the world, a universal dread of where this will all end. I would say that, as history is seasonal, we are entering a cold winter. But a springtime will come, and even in the darkest night of winter, the run rises every morning. It is ours simply to be up and awake as the light dawns, and to confess with unshakable conviction, that His mercies are renewed each morning.
On this darkest day of the year I will witness the matrimonial vows of Thomas and MaryAnn, and bestow the Church’s blessing upon their union. They are not afraid to submit themselves to a conjugal bond while most young people are “keeping their options open.” Please say a prayer for Thomas and MaryAnn on this, the day of their wedding.