Saturday, March 31, 2007

From the Darkness

When from the darkness comes no light,

when from the weeping comes no laughter;

when in the day we hope for night

nor any comfort coming after:

grant us your peace.

When in our confidence our fear

clutch at the heart and make us tremble;

when in our joy we weep cold tears,

and in our frankness we dissemble:

grant us your light.

When in our love there is no care,

and in our yearning we are dullness;

when what we know we cannot dare,

and we are nothing that is fullness:

grant us your truth.

(Brendan McLaughlin(1971)

My mother-in-love and I attended Lenten Vespers together. The Abendmusik Vespers Choir from Vancouver performed it at a Reformed church nearby. We had no idea we would witness such beauty. The inner-sanctuary of the church was constructed to be acoustically superb; we were amazed at the perfectly held and reflected sound, the clear precision of each choral note.

The song above, When From the Darkness, was my favorite. Hearing it, reminded me of why I love the seasons of Lent and Advent and why the traditional, liturgical calendar brings me such solace.

I was raised in a variety of Christian churches, all with very little liturgy or tradition. In many ways, I am thankful for the variety of Christian expression that I was exposed to. But in other ways I felt overwhelmed by the options and entered University with a lot of confusion about how to "choose" a church away from home.

Somehow in the midst of it all, I absorbed the message that Christians should be happy and good-looking and energetic, and should have easy answers for the heartaches and struggles of the world. They might experience challenge, but should stand up tall and "get over it", because Christ brings joy, and true Christians should FEEL joy. When I experienced sadness or melancholy, it seemed contrary to the part of Christianity I knew and I felt a sense of urgency to regain contentment, to once again feel happy.

I have realized this is only half of the Christian experience. Christ does bring joy. Having a sense of contentment and faith inside does impact one's outer beauty and brings energy and meaning. But true joy often comes only after deep sadness and heartache. And true depth and authenticity comes from sitting still with that sadness, letting the melancholy sink in. And when it has done it's work, letting it move out to a wider place, where there is room again for joy.

I began to accept that Christianity can encompass all the seasons of a person's life. Faith remains as relevant in Winter as in Summer and Spring. I had a hunger to be part of an expression of Christianity that expressed in symbolic form, the whole range of human emotion.

In the end, I chose an Anglican Church. Or perhaps, it chose me.

We have been attending an Anglican church for 6 years now. The repetition and constancy of the liturgical calendar has spiralled into our life more deeply each year. It has not become tiresome and old; it has become a quieting stability in my life. I have come to love the season of Lent. It is a 40-day season of preparation and spiritual renewal beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday, the night before Easter. And it is a time to embrace sadness and heartache, to find quiet space in which to sit and rest, to be still.

Lent allows us to feel depression, and melancholy, just because, without simple answers. It recognizes the bigness of God, but allows one to feel alone, to acknowledge that aloneness is okay. It is a hovering place, a holding room, a quiet space before the relief and renewal of Easter.

After a long 40-day period of mindfulness and preparation, Easter morning feels like the first day of creation!

I am resting tonight in the hovering space, walking through this final week of preparation. And before I sleep, I will read the lyrics of another song from Lenten Vespers called Close Now Thine Eyes:

Close now thine eyes and rest secure,

thy soul is safe enough, they body sure.

He that loves thee,

He that keeps and guards thee never slumbers, never sleeps.

The smiling conscience in a sleeping breast has only peace, has only rest;

The music and the mirth of kings are all but very discords when she sings.

Then close thine eyes.

Close now thine eyes and rest secure,

no sleep so sweet as thine,

no rest so sure.
(Francis Quarles)


Rach said...

attending a non-traditional-liturgical church (I would say we have our own liturgy - songs, notices, song, prayer, sermon, song, cup-of-tea), I really miss the things you mention. Discussing this with friends recetly, we decided to try and get hold of a good book to guide us in our family lives...any suggestions?

Mama Monk said...

Dear Rach---

It means a lot to me that you stop by for visits:). Thank you.

A couple of books comes to mind. I really enjoy them both. WATCH FOR THE LIGHT: Reflections on Advent and Christmas and BREAD AND WINE: Readings for Lent and Easter. These are both excellent collections of stories and thoughts by wonderful writers: C.S Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle, Thomas Merton, Philip Yancey. The readings are especially suited to adults or older children.

The Book of Common Prayer is always a great resource for the church calendar, with clearly laid out Bible readings for each day.

Henri Nouwen has a number of reflective books on Advent and Lent that look good, but I've never read them.

As far as family resources, I came across a great website: ( that has printable resources and links to other spots online.

I hope this helps!


Andrea said...

Mama M
I left you a "Thinking Blogger Award" over at my site--come check it out!!

tamie said...


i just bestowed upon you the thinking blogger award...come to my blog and get it!


elizabeth said...

blessings in your Holy Week!

Krista H. said...

I saw on your blog that you call Brian's mom your "mother in love"! My mom called my dad's mom her "mother in love" until she passed away when I was in high school. My grandmother was an amazing woman and it always spoke to me deeply that my mother would cherish and respect my dad's mom enough to call her that. My mom said she actually grew closer to her mother in law in the 20 years she knew her than she ever was to her own mom.

Reading those words in your blog warmed my heart. We certainly are in the minority--those of us who feel supported and appreciated by our inlaws. Thank you, Lord for mother in loves.

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