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Praying for Darkness in a Year of Glare

A Poetic Litany for Lent

1st voice:

Parent God of all of us, hear our prayer
in this disruptive year: Lord, turn out the lights.
Turn out for moments of our prayers
and for moments of our lives
all the lights we see by,
or all the lights we think we see by.
Make it dark in here, even now, in each of us.

2nd voice:

For thousands of the years in time as we mark it,
we have prayed that darkness be dispelled.
But in this new moment of our history,
in the confusion of gleaming gold and silver
narrowed into beams of fake promise, shimmerings,
flash, lies, we are blinded, we squint into
too much garish light beamed to each of us
while as citizens we’re mobbed together
with almost no light flooding out to all of us.

1st voice:

Already in semi-dark we realize
that our nightmare fears
no longer lurk in the dark of jungles
or in our boarded-up, unlit slums;
they stride in and out of fully-lit boardrooms
and powerful offices daily from 9 to 5.

Congregation:

The old symbols are changing. We are too grown up
to fear the wolf that waited in the tangled forest
behind our childhood. Huddled under lights, we no longer believe
in a specter, black hooded and caped,
who hides in the shadows to snare us.
It is OURSELVES we fear.
So now we pray you, Lord—
do not yet dispel the dark—dispel the light
a little longer.

2nd voice:

Here in the half-drowned world
that we surrender to when we sleep,
we feel the dark river that flows
through every heart-beat,
the pulse of our oldest and deepest music.

1st voice:

We see how we have hurried past the vision the psalmist knew:
“You Lord have hidden the truth in darkness,
and through this mystery you teach us wisdom.”

Congregation:

Keep us now and then in the dark, Lord.
The dark of Golgotha, or Paul’s black jolt
on the way to Damascus, or the grapple of Jacob,
to be renamed Israel, wrestling his way
in the dark from eyesight to vision—
we pray for darkness so that we may see.

2nd voice:

As we wait in the dark
we do sometimes see tracings and splinters,
a flicker of our dream of the world you gave us,
sparks and flashes we almost remember.

1st voice:

We seek moments of blindness and insight
so that we may be truly one
with the dark and lowly servant,
paradoxically “light of the world,”
who came to share our darkness with us.
In his name have we dared to ask
for dark as well as for light.

2nd voice:

Now we rest in quiet for a moment
in the shadow of the almighty,
remembering Moses and
the dark cloud where God was,
remembering at least to say what the psalmist used to sing;
“He made the dark his cover,
his pavilion is dark waters
and the dark rain clouds of the sky.”

1st voice:

Parent God, cover us, your adopted children, as in blankets,
in what St. Hildegarde called “the cloud of our unknowing.”
Hold us here in darkness a moment more, a moment more,
we want to see again from behind the eye,
it is here we can dream and remember and imagine deep—
as Hebrew prophets did—as children do.

Congregation:

As we emerge out of this dark into light, show us, God,
as for the first time, freshly, the rich glowings of our different skins,
the eyes of the oppressed piercing dark skies like beacons,
the flares of wonder that play in the eyes of our children.

Congregation and Voices:

By way of darkness, seeing fresh, Lord,
we pray to live again in the wonder of light. Amen.