He waits in the Heart of Darkness

“The Beloved Waiting in the Heart of Darkness” Part II

He waits in the heart of darkness
by Kaitlyn Willy, Chaplain’s Apprentice

This is the second in my series of reflections from retreat on the BCC Blog.

The original post can be found here: http://butlercatholiccommunity.blogspot.com/2013/01/he-waits-in-heart-of-darkness.html 

As I mentioned in my blog yesterday, the theme for the retreat that I just went on was “The Beloved Waiting in the Heart of Darkness.”

One of the things that occurred to me on this retreat was that if I take the beloved to be Christ, then Christ waits for me in the heart of the darkness. He doesn’t wait on the outskirts, he waits in the center of it. In order to get to him, I have to go through the dark and then he will help me through to the other side.

This revelation was truly a grace to me. My retreat director could not have chosen a better time to give me this piece of wisdom. I need it right now. I woke up this morning to find out that one of my dearest friends from high school had passed away. I haven’t processed the emotions from this yet; it’s only been a couple hours since I found out and right now, I am just trying to put one foot in front of the other. I don’t know yet how I feel, other than the obvious answer of sadness. I don’t know what I’m going to do, or how I am going to find consolation in this. What I do know, I know from experience. The sadness I feel now is nothing compared to the darkness that I might face in the next few days as I slowly come to know the reality of Jessica’s death. Thanks to this retreat, I also know this: I cannot sit on the outskirts of grief and avoid dealing with my emotions if I expect Christ to be with me. He is waiting for me in the heart of that darkness, and I will have to go there to find him. As much as I would like to just bury myself in my work and avoid thinking about it, I can’t. I have to go there.

During the retreat, it hit me that this is like the Paschal mystery. When we’re on the outskirts of the dark, it’s like Holy Thursday in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s like when the soldiers came and took Christ. We’re scared, we’re sad, we’re confused. Darkness is threatening to overcome us. We want to run, like Peter ran when he denied knowing Christ. But the thing is, we can’t run if we want to get to the Resurrection. Only through the Passion can we come to the Resurrection.

In one of the texts I’m reading for comps (Athanasius’ On the  Incarnation) I was struck by a simple line, something that any kindergartener would think was obvious. But this statement must not have been too obvious, because Athanasius bothered to say it and, let’s be honest, paper and ink was not cheap back then (really, papyrus and ink). The line was this: “Death must precede resurrection.”

I think this is a fact that we all too often want to overlook. I would like the resurrection without the passion, thank you very much. I’ve seen a crucifix. The passion doesn’t look too fun. I would like to avoid that part, just like I would like to avoid recognizing the reality of grief. But consolation cannot come from avoidance. That’s not healthy. We have to go into the heart of darkness, where Christ, the Beloved, is waiting. He will bring us out the other side.

So, friends, have hope. Do not be afraid to know the dark. Instead, fear the unlived life—the one that is avoided by living in fear. And know that for every Good Friday, there is always an Easter Sunday. As my favorite poet, Wendell Berry, says: “Practice Resurrection.”

Please pray for Jessica and her family and friends. And friends, please know that whenever you feel alone in the darkness, Fr. Jeff and I are here and we will always be willing to sit with you and be with you. You are never alone.