I’ve never been more terrified. Every three year old knows how I felt…pulling the covers up to my neck in hopes that the witch and the monster I could hear in the closet were going to carry me away or eat me or make me scream. And while they always went away in the morning, when the light came on, in the dark they always had the advantage.
Like when I was young priest, standing by the bed of the old man who was not going gently into that good night. Actually, he was cursing and swearing at everything with a vehemence as scary and as loud, as it was desperate. And I stood petrified, as I stared in the face of pure darkness and trembled before shouts of renunciation, professions of faithlessness, and an abject rejection of God. It had never seemed so dark.
Except when I met the guy whose wife asked him for a divorce and told him she didn’t love him anymore. He tried to reason that it was their son’s addiction, or their daughter’s unwed pregnancy, but he knew the darkness that was destroying their marriage was somehow leaking out of his own heart. He’d stopped praying a long time ago and only went to Church when there were lilies or poinsettias. He’d thought he plotted his own path for so long, but now he was lost in the dark, the dark that was in front and behind and beneath and all around him. Lost in the dark.
Like a magus (singular of magi), wandering over hill and dale with all those camels and gifts, lost in the middle of the night. All six of them: Gaspar, Melchior, Balthazar, the guy with the broken marriage, the young priest and the kid with the closet…all wandering through the dark night of the soul, looking for the star that rises in the East, for the morning star of our salvation and the refulgence of the Father’s glory.
Their journey to the manger in Bethlehem was what our beloved Pope emeritus called the “beginning of a great procession which winds throughout history.”1
It is our procession, through all the dark nights of our lives: a never ending struggle between the dark deceptions of Satan, with all his pomps and phantasms and the blinding love of God who rises in the East with healing in his wings.
So, listen to me, every little kid afraid of the dark: you never have to be afraid, ever again! For the Baby Jesus, who was born for you in the manger has destroyed all the monsters and witches and banished the darkness in which they hid. Never again need you be afraid of the dark, for it is ever but a prelude to the coming of his light and the fullness of his glory.
Listen to me, every old man on the brink of death: you never have to be afraid ever again! For he who was born in a manger in the shadow of a cross upon which he offered his last breath for your salvation, in his dying has destroyed all death. And he has promised that those who eat his Body and drink his Blood will never really die at all, but will rise with him to eternal life.
And listen to me, you who are so lost in the dark that you cannot find your way, I say: you never have to be afraid, ever again! Follow the Magi in this great procession of humanity to Jesus Christ, to the God who was born in a stable, who died on the Cross and who, having risen from the dead, remains with us always, until the consummation of the world.”2 Follow him and him alone and you will know the peace the world cannot give, until you come to love in perfect light with him who the light for ever.
“Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord
has risen upon you.”3
1 - Pope Benedict XVI, Epiphany Homily, 2013.
2 - Pope Benedict XVI, Epiphany Homily, 2012; cf. Mt 28:20.
3 - Isaiah 60:1.