This is the first of three sections taken from Christine Valters Painter’s profound reflection on November as a month of remembrance, commemoration, and dedication. The others will be shared with you in the two following weeks. I hope these will help you find a way through this often challenging time.
In this week’s passage, Painter invites us to do the opposite of what might come naturally: to open ourselves to “not-knowing” in the awareness that God is always present to us and yet is greater than all we know.
The God we come to know in Christ is defined by love that is more immense and mysterious than we can imagine. And God never ends this relationship of love with us.
If you click on the link at the foot of the page and go to page 2 on the website you will find a series of exercises Painter invites us to practice and so deepen our experience.
The Christian feasts of All Saints and All Souls on November 1st and 2nd honor the profound legacy of wisdom our ancestors have left to us and continue to offer. In some denominations, we celebrate and honor the dead for the whole month. In the Northern hemisphere the world is entering the dark half of the year. The ancient Celtic people believed this time was a thin space, where heaven and earth whispered to one another across a luminous veil and those who walked before us are especially accessible in these late autumn days. These moments on the great turning of the year’s wheel offer us invitations and gifts for our spiritual journeys.
As the earth prepares to enter winter, she sheds what she no longer needs and moves inward. We live in a world illuminated by artificial light and so we often forget the wisdom to be gained from being in darkness. With the busyness of our lives, we resist the call of winter to fallowness and to contemplate what mortality means for us.
The darkness of this season invites us to release all of our certainties about how God works in the world, and sink into the deep unknowing. Apophasis is the way of darkness in Christian spirituality and has a deep and rich tradition among the mystics, including Meister Eckhart and John of the Cross. When we enter the wisdom of night we discover God is so much larger than what we can imagine that many of our beliefs have become idols, and that the call to a mature spirituality has more to do with surrendering our attachments than in gaining enlightenment.