Today's bright sunshine made for a world of interesting shadows, whether outside on the snow, or inside with houseplants and metal sculptures.
I'm pondering light and shadow in other ways these days. Darkness and shadow tend to carry negative connotations for us, and they can be scary, and threatening. But they can also be gift, as in Brian Wren's song, Joyful is the Dark, which poetically provides us with numerous images of times of darkness that were "the cradle of the dawning."
There's the holy, hidden God, in the thick darkness on Sinai, and in the mystic's "cloud of unknowing." There's the dark chaos over which the spirit breath of God hovered in the beginning. There's the darkness of the stable, and the coolness of the tomb "waiting for the wonder of the morning."
And today I had an illuminating moment as I made my way through this rather dense sentence from the book Sophia: the Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton, by Christopher Pramuk: "And although it is true that his cosmic view of Christ frequently shimmers with cataphatic light and presence, we shall see that as Sophia it makes ample room for the apophatic paradox of darkness and hiddenness..."
Cataphatic and apophatic are technical theological language, but the concepts aren't hard to grasp. The cataphatic path is one in which we experience God through the richness of the created world -- through our relationships, through nature, through scripture, through faith imagination, through music and poetry and song.
The apophatic path is where we encounter God through experiences of absence and emptiness, silence and darkness. Words and images fail to hold or express all that God is. God is mystery
While one strand may dominate for a given individual at a given time, these are two sides of the same reality, and both are intertwining strands in our lives. My photos of sparks of light are in the cataphatic strand; when i sit in silent prayer, I am in an apophatic mode.
I'm eager to read more about Merton's experience with Christ as Sophia/Wisdom. I know his poetry and prayers are full of light and presence, as well as the hiddenness and the darkness that births new life.
I'll continue to pay attention through this time of Advent, watching for the interplay of shadow and light, and for experiences of the cataphatic and apophatic ways for knowing God.
"Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"
I've taken on a prayer practice of looking for the moments of light in each day, whether actual or metaphorical, and then writing or posting photos of what I find.