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Suffering

Dazzling Darkness

Thursday, August 18th, 2022

Author and CAC friend Mirabai Starr finds inspiration in mystics Julian of Norwich (1343–c. 1416) and John of the Cross (1542–1591). Both endured profound suffering and yet discovered a deep and Divine love in its midst.

Mystics see through a lens of paradox: dazzling darkness, beautiful wound, the longing that is the remedy for longing. Paradox points beyond itself to a truth that both transcends and includes logic, a truth that is alive, generative, and whole. Such a dynamic mode of knowing demands our complete attention. . . .

What does a religious woman who dwelt in an anchor-hold during the Middle Ages have to do with you and me today? Julian endured a long and cruel pandemic. The disease ravaged her community and carried off the people that she loved. She learned to shelter in place, focusing on cultivating her interior landscape and sharing the fruits of her wisdom through the window that opened from her cell onto the busy streets of her city (think computer screen and Zoom), where she offered counsel to visitors . . . each day.

She found solace, not in the wrathful father-god of her childhood, but in an unconditionally loving Mother-God who could not help but forgive the transgressions of each one of her darling kids. She recognized that everything that is could be contained in a hazelnut in the palm of God’s hand, and that it all endures because God adores every particle of Her creation. She also realized that, even though the night feels impenetrable now, dawn is coming, when we will see with our own eyes that not only is every little thing going to be alright, but that it has been all along.

And how could a renegade monk, who survived the Spanish Inquisition despite the Jewish and Moorish blood that flowed through his veins, have anything to teach us about flourishing in our own dark nights? John of the Cross illumines the transformational power of radical unknowing. He rekindles our latent longing for union with the Beloved and, through sublime poetry and precise prose, blows on the flames so that they dance back to life in our beleaguered hearts.

He reminds us that when everything in us wants to rush out and fix the problem of our brokenness, both individual and collective, the wisest and most loving thing to do is to be still, letting go of our attachment to the way we thought the spiritual life was supposed to feel and the sense we assumed it should make. Once we step out of our own way, into the dark and empty vessel of the soul, “an ineffable sweetness” will begin to rise, permeating and nourishing the quiet earth, uncovering a resurrection we never dreamed possible: a dazzling darkness, a radiant night, a revolutionary newness of being.

But maybe not quite yet.

We are not alone. The wise ones who walked before us have left luminous footprints for us to follow in our own apocalyptic times.

Reference:

Mirabai Starr, “Dazzling Darkness,” Oneing 10, no. 1, Unveiled (Spring 2022): 83, 87–88. Available in print and PDF download.

Explore Further. . .

Read Mirabai Starr on the abyss of grief.

Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.

Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.

Image credit: Carrie Grace Littauer, Untitled 2, Untitled 3, Untitled 9 (details), 2022, photographs, Colorado, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: The hollow feeling when loved ones are no longer present, like holes in a log. The pain of a thorn piercing skin. This tree has suffered and witnessed suffering. We too have suffered and witness suffering.

Story from Our Community:

When my daughter was addicted and living on the streets, the only thing that allowed me to get through the agony of possibly losing her was the knowledge that my suffering was in union with Christ, his blessed mother, and all the suffering people of the world. —Annie R.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

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