Light in the desert is different than it is anywhere else. My favorite gospel is the Gospel of John in which light is the co-star with Jesus and alongside friendship. The prologue of John’s gospel – that song which begins chapter one- is full of references to light and darkness.
In times of retreat, meditation, introspection and mindfulness like that which was my joy on my annual retreat, light played a staring role alongside Jesus much the way I see it in John’s gospel. Often, as I hiked, I would look up at the sun and close my eyes just to feel the sun on my face and body. The sun was white and hot and present and pushed back the darkness in ways which reminded me why so many cultures have worshipped the sun. Even our day of worship is called Sun-day. And other times i drew the curtains of my room closed and sat in a delicious, silent darkness in order to process the life that happens in the light.
“in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:4-5
There is darkness in the cosmos and even black holes. But light reminds us that when darkness comes, it comes only for a time. When there are seasons or moments of sadness or grief, we know that they will hurt. But we also know that they will pass, and that the sun will again rise – that the “Sunday” will come ’round again in a few days and all manner of thing shall be well, or at least well-ish.
Living the spiritual life is not about being happy or being cheerful or being good. It is certainly not about right worship of proper conduct. The spiritual life is knowing that the light will come when it feels absent; which is why our great Easter Vigil Eucharist is such a dramatic unfolding of the entire spiritual life in one liturgy of darkness turned to light.