Nighttime is my favorite time to walk. I enjoy the stillness of our lawns, evening quiet, silent stars, scattered lights in monastery windows, a night sky the color of darkened ash…
I also enjoy the darkness. I often see better in the dark, or perhaps I should say I see more in the dark. Something about the absence of light sharpens my ability to see, much as the absence of noise helps me to listen. The absence facilitates attention, and it is attention, not light and sound, that enable one to encounter God both within the ordinary and beyond the ordinary.
Have you been watching the Winter Games? Have you noticed the way skates and skis create distance between the athlete and the ice and snow, yet also serve as intermediary between the two? The blade that separates (absences) the skater from the ice is also the medium through which the ice is encountered, allowing the athlete to create moments and movements of beauty not possible within the usual motions of ordinary life. Even after blade and board have been removed and feet are back on the ground, the imprint of beauty remains.
In like fashion, our abstinences and observances of this Lenten season can be the medium through which we encounter God at a deeper level, leaving a lasting imprint upon our spirit even after we resume the usual routines of our ordinary life.
Beauty surrounds us – the night sky, the quiet lawn, the silence and stillness of a ski jumper in mid-air, the almost unbearable gentleness of his landing – if only we have eyes to see. The ‘night vision’ of my evening walks helps me develop a deeper attentiveness at all times. And our Lenten disciplines can lead us to encounter God – to see more – both within and beyond the season.
Postscript: If you are wondering about the Lenten practices of our monastic Community you can read about them in a brief article on our Community News web page.