Do not be afraid of the dark

An Advent devotion for the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio. Today is the commemoration of St John of the Cross; Juan de la Cruz

Juan de la Cruz is best known to us for his luminous phrase, “the dark night of the soul.” But Juan was not afraid of the dark.

I imagine that the nights were pretty dark where Juan grew up, near Avila in sixteenth-century Spain. He learned to find his way through rigorous discipline, and austere devotion. In the dark, it is easier to stay safe and uninjured if everything else stays in its place and out of your way.

When it is truly dark, they say, the mind begins to see things differently; it finds its own light, its own sight. Juan saw visions.

He describes, in his spiritual poems, the secret journey of the soul on a darkened staircase, sneaking out to meet the beloved, his God,

In the joy of night,
in secret so none saw me,
no object in my sight,
no other light to guide me,
but what burned here inside me.[1]

“No other light to guide me, but what burned here inside me.”

In the beginning, God declared, “Let there be light,” where previously there was only darkness. So we, made in God’s image, need not be afraid of darkness which was part of our being before the world began; it does not hide God, but announces God’s imminence, God’s immanence; the urgent announcement of the advent of light within.

[1] “Song of the Soul that Delights in Reaching the Supreme State,” Juan de la Cruz, translated by A.S. Kline,

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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