Light in a Season of Darkness: What are We Waiting For?

Advent.  A time of waiting for what is coming.  Autumn, waiting for winter, waiting for the coming of spring, waiting for the coming of summer, waiting for the coming of autumn.  “To everything there is a season,” we are told, if we wait for it to come and then, often, to pass.

What are we waiting for?  The answer to the question seems quite obvious for most Americans.  We are waiting for this election cycle to be formally over.  We are waiting to see what the next four years will bring.  We are waiting for stability, for peace, for kindness, for Light.  The question seems obvious for the rest of the world.  We are waiting for vaccinations, for the end of the pandemic, for what that “end” will look like and what it will ask of us and who will say “yes” to what is required.  Waiting can be tiring.  We can only tread water for so long.  Our hope, I believe, is to rediscover the practice of waiting while staying in the moment, paying attention to that moment, whatever it is.

In this time of watching the world in which I grew up, reared children, practiced a vocation seem to crumble or at least suffer some serious fissures, I have wondered where God—that ultimate Being that is part of us yet is much vaster than us–is.  Slowly during these months of pandemic, that answer came to me:  “What is, is where God is.”  What our current reality is (lockdown, illness, frustration, anger, fear, displacement, separation) is where God is.  And if we desire to participate in the creative and re-creative work of God, we join God where God is.  IS.  Here.  Now.  In the waiting, or rather, in how we wait.

How are you preparing to wait for the Light and the closure of the year 2020?  How am I?  In our waiting, how will we assist the flame that is calling to be rekindled?  What commitment will we make to being Light-followers?  These are the questions I am taking into my heart this Advent, with honesty, with compassion, and with the presence of the Spirit of God.  You are invited to join me in pondering them, or sharing your own questions.


“Light your candles quietly, such candles as you possess, wherever you are.” ~ Fr. Alfred Delp, martyred in Nazi Germany, age 38

As the daylight hours shorten and we approach a fallow time of year, many Christian denominations prepare for the season of Advent, the month-long period of waiting for the celebration of the birth of the Christ-Child, the Light of the World. Other faith traditions, such as Hindus, Jains and Sikhs, celebrate Diwali, a festival of lights, while our Jewish sisters and brothers prepare for Hannukah. Darkness calls humanity to seek the light, eon after eon.

Our current pandemic is certainly a dark place, while social and political upheaval in the United States and in other parts of the world create heavy shadows. But each of us has been given a spark of light, and this time of year, in particular, is an appropriate, and much-needed, season to reflect on how we can shine our lights together. As Father Delp, a Jesuit priest hanged for treason in Nazi Germany, invited, we are to shine humbly in whatever way our souls, spirits, psyches call us to, in whatever places and situations we find ourselves, in order to stave off the darkness and encircle our world with the healing power of light.

During this Season of Advent/Diwali/Hannukah, etc., I will be sharing my reflections on how we may be called to both wait in the darkness and to illuminate the shadows in a series called Light in a Dark Season. I invite you to join me as a Light-Bearer so that together we might spread a mantle of brightness over our wounded world.

In the small still shadow of a darkened morning
before the screeching of this broken world repeats,
I strike a match and set it to a stub of wick:
an offering of light being birthed yet again.

Before the screeching of this broken world repeats,
I breathe sacred flame-glow into heart, psyche, soul
an offering of light being birthed yet again,
a single, slender candle singing prayer.

I breathe sacred flame-glow into heart, psyche, soul,
imagine the brilliance of a hundred million candles
burning quietly on the edges of every dawn
before the screeching of this broken world repeats.

I strike a match and set it to a stub of wick,
my hope for this wounded world one fluttering flame,
a single, slender candle singing prayer
in the small still shadows of a darkened morning.

© Rosemary McMahan