As I neared Cullman County last night following a visit with family in the Carolinas, I turned off Hwy 231 onto a narrow country road that serves as my shortcut to Hwy 278. After a few rises and falls, the road crested and hugged a ridgeline the rest of the way into Holly Pond, just east of Cullman.
It was nearing 8:00 PM, and winter darkness had long settled onto the hills and into the hollows of north Alabama. But looking from the ridgeline out toward the distant west, a pale streak of daylight hovered like an afterthought on the far horizon. It wasn’t the usual pink or orange of a proper sunset. It wasn’t even a glow. It was just a grey-white streak of pale, the barest reminder of the day that had been, and of the day that was to be.
This morning I awakened to steady rain and a colorless sky that bore no hint of the joy of Gaudete Sunday or the color of rose that would brighten our liturgy or the Mass readings that would exhort us to rejoice. I stared out the window at the blanched vista that seemed drained of life even as it drained the heavens of moisture. The sky looked like a line from the old song “a whiter shade of pale.”
The steady rain has continued all day and now into the evening. The sky is both dreary and weary. Our mood is subdued as we grieve the tragedy in Connecticut, as well as violence closer to home. A bucket is catching a percussive leak in the Retreat Center office. Everything looks grey, grim, and damp. But Sisters Therese and Michelle baked cookies this afternoon. Sr. Lynn Marie prepared a special treat for our tree-decorating party. The schola gathered to practice after dinner. And we gathered as a community tonight to decorate our dining room Christmas tree, sing for a bit, and yes, rejoice over the Daybreak that even now hovers on the horizon.
We are called to rejoice – sometimes against all evidence, and sometimes against all odds. Yet if we can climb the ridgeline and look to the horizon, we can find a hint of the sunlight that has been, and the Light that is to come. And we can rejoice – even if it is a paler shade of joy.
Postscript: For a previous post on Gaudete Sunday, including an explanation of Gaudete, please see the December 12, 2010 post in the archive above left (“We interrupt this color…”) .