Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Yes! Going Down A Dark Road ~ Can You Name It?

Someone terribly unnerved wrote about this picture, trying to figure me out with my reference to the dark road: "Are you making a political statement?" First of all, it's good to be unnerved by the picture. Images of any kind that don't elicit a felt response are pretty useless. The people who create TV commercials know this. 

And maybe the image is un-nerving because we've probably all been in a car on a desolate night like this. But as Advent begins, what I'm saying with the photo is: Name this; it's an interior place.

You know, we can sit in church for a hundred years, listen to hundreds of sermons, light the candles, watch the vestments change color, hear the readings and liturgical prayers go around and round and still never go inside, which is where true religion takes place. I don't know about you, but I wasn't given Christianity as a spiritual way - a way of exterior religious observance - but not an inner spiritual path. But we grow with God's help and those we meet along the way.

How can I celebrate Christmas, the Feast of Light, if I don't first identify my own personal darkness? And while some darkness is sin, pray we realize that's by no means all it is. We don't know where the dark road in the photo is going, do we? Is there some part of my life that feels like that?

This road is slippery and narrow. Does that touch some inner place? I'd be thinking, "O God, please don't let me break down here." Does that resonate within me? How un-settling this darkness is. Can I identify in my life the inner place that feels so desperate for light or for an experience of safe arrival? 

Friends, this is the spiritual life. And if  Advent, in these darkest days before the solstice, doesn't take me to these inner places where I need the Child to be born who is called LIGHT - then I'm just roasting chestnuts and jingling bells. 

We might interrupt our regular prayer routine for at time and sit with this photo and get to naming some of it: 

  • the loneliness perhaps,
  • the fear of what lies ahead in my life, 
  • where I'm feeling closed in, 
  • where I'm unnerved or feeling desperate, 
  • the terror of a breakdown. 
  • where I'm kind of slipping and sliding, 
  • where interiorly I know I could go over the edge,
  • an inner place where I'm gripping the wheel, 
  • maybe the dark road is the road of resentment,
  • or the lonely road of my personal discontent. 

Many people never look there, keeping religion all external. Look out the window these dark days and what do you see? You see yourself reflected in the dark glass! These are metaphors for sure. But metaphor doesn't mean something's not real. Metaphor means it's MOST real - it's what's going on with me personally. I get it! This is where the Christmas Child wants to be born again. Now I can make my prayer: perhaps the best prayer I've ever prayed.


  1. You have the right idea here Father. How can we even know what the light is until we have been in our own darkness. If we don't go down this road, then we can appreciate the light at the end. Even if it is a long and treacherous drive, it will be worth it.

    1. Yeah, there's another image for it - "a long and treacherous drive." Was it Paul McCartney's song "the long and winding road...."

  2. It is easy to understand why one might be afraid to approach their inner darkness. I have traveled down this road I have traveled down this road before and it takes never ending concentration and a firm grip of the wheel to keep from sliding off the road into the depths below. But you can find the light if you look for it. I do get it Father and I hope the unnerved person who wrote to you gets it also. Sometimes we have to look beyond it all.

    1. Amen and Amen again. There are roads with a sharp drop off one side or another. That's an image for an inner place, yes. Blessed Advent to you!

  3. I am willing to travel into the darkness that is my own inner place as long as you lead us towards the light at the end of our Advent journey. I know how rewarding this can be. It's the tearing off of the bandage and allowing the wound to heal from the inside out. Many blessings to you Father for being this great beacon of faith along our dark road.

  4. I'm on the road too. Priest shouldn't tell people what they have to do - priests should be companions in the "traveling". Bless you in the Advent time.

  5. I know you won't let us just jingle some bells into Christmas. I am so looking forward to your Advent journey to get ready for the birth of Jesus. Yes, I agree that you are a beacon, guiding us to experience God's love more fully.

  6. Advent is such a wonderful liturgical time and so lost because we're zooming around so that everything is just right. And the distractions of food, gifts, decorations are all good, but if we could just hold off or turn down the volume by making things simpler - then Advent would have a chance. When I was a teacher in Manhattan I suggested to my colleagues that we not put up Christmas decorations until just a day or two before the students left for vacation, so that we could emphasize and enjoy Advent. Oh my, you'd think I was suggesting SIN. It didn't fly.

  7. It is a curious thing this post. The picture created in me a feeling of hopelessness. I couldn't think beyond the picture. After finally being able to read and take in your objective, I understood, the examination of ones self. I could relate to all of these. Your challenge to become a person of interior light is an awakening for sure. An Advent goal but also a healing for me. Looking forward to the challenge!

  8. That's it! The picture is powerful and it elicited a response in you from a felt place. A lot of religion is simply "done" and there's no felt connection. This is different. Name it! Bring it to the candle lighting. If not at home, then before the wreath in church. Name the inner place that's eager for the light.

  9. I can name my darkest interior places that dwell deep within me. But can I confront them and risk bringing them to the surface? That is the question that I ask myself which I can guess is why we have trouble with the picture of this road seemingly leading into darkness instead of into the light. We must't lose our faith as a good journey is as important as the destination. I will use these weeks to really examine my interior and journey to Jesus with your guidance here.

  10. Maybe we can imagine that the road is leading EAST - where the sun comes up, and we are re-oriented by the light. The night journey is undistracted. You don't look left and right at the consoling scenery that might be out there. I stay focused. Sometimes when we're on the road we say frantically, "I'm lost." But we're never really lost so long as we're on a road because all road are eventually connected and we can find our way. Twists and turns, maybe. Seeming dead ends, maybe. Got to slow down to navigate a road like this and hold on tight, yes. But with God's help we find our way. In this case, we find our inner way to Bethlehem, where the one called LIGHT is born! This is very wonderful.