The Dark Night (1)
By Velma Ruch of Lamoni, IA, USA
These are portentous times. The lives of many are being sacrificed unnecessarily to the gods of war, greed, and avarice. The land is being desecrated by the thoughtless waste of vital resources. You must obey my commandments and be in the forefront of those who would mediate this needless destruction while there is yet day. -Doctrine and Covenants 150:7
The concept of the dark night of the soul, although not named as such, has been around since the beginning of time in mythology, in stories of the hero, and in scripture. Each will vary slightly depending on the tradition from which it comes. My story and the others I am sharing are all part of the Christian spiritual journey and thus are based on the suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus.
“No spirituality can pretend to be mature,” Ronald Rolheiser has written, “without grappling with the timeless, haunting questions of suffering and death” (The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality, Doubleday, 1999, p. 141). “In Christian spirituality,” he states, “Christ is central and central to Christ is his death and rising to new life, so as to send us a new spirit…We pay lip service to the fact that the key thing Jesus did for us was to suffer and die, but we seldom really try to understand what that means and how we might appropriate it in our own lives” (p. 142).
As reported in the Gospel of John (John 12:24 NRSV), Jesus himself referred to the paschal process of transformation by saying, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain, but if it dies it yields a rich harvest.”
I have learned that some kind of death is necessary as preparation for a new life and spirit. As Rolheiser expresses it, “These words of Jesus define the paschal mystery, namely, in order to come to fuller life and spirit, we must constantly be letting go of present life and spirit” (p. 146).
We were born with a vision of that to which we were called, but it is not ours until we grow into it. Through one or a series of transformations we come closer to what the poet John Donne once described as “an abler soul” (“Ecstasy”). It may be a cleansing of impurities, a conversion, a sense of calling, a deeper love relationship between the human and the Divine, or a power to accomplish what once seemed impossible. Beyond living an incarnate life, we also are transformed, not only by a fuller understanding of the self but by a greater ability to live it as well. We come home.
(Excerpted from “The Dark Night of the Soul: A Personal Account” by Velma Ruch)
Spirit, now live in me.
Breathe deeply and enter a few minutes of silence. Be attentive to where you sense new life emerging in you. Search your memories of the previous day. When did you notice the sacredness of life in surprising places or forms in the world around you?
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