A Midnight Clear

Culture

by Chaplain Bernie Jorn | Dec 21, 2021

On Tuesday, December 21, the sun will rise at 7:23 to begin its shortest day of the year – the winter solstice. On this day the Earth’s northern hemisphere is pitched at its greatest angle away from the sun (23.5°). The darkness will come at 5:27, when the sun closes shop early and the longest night begins. For us this will last 14 hours, and increasingly longer the farther north you go. Evidence shows that the winter solstice held importance even as early as Neolithic times, with the building of structures such as Stonehenge. Many were constructed to be in line with the sun on this very day. Other cultures saw the passing of this night as the turn toward longer days again, holding celebrations for the coming season of planting.

In different times and places through history, darkness has been perceived as a place of danger and foreboding. It embodies the unknown. In darkness our imaginations mold fears into reality, listening to those things that “go bump in the night.” As Poe put it in The Raven, “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, doubting, fearing, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”

And then there were times when the darkness was a gift. Mariners crossing the seas had stars to guide them, as did nomads crossing the deserts. Taking this into the metaphorical, it may be our own personal times of darkness, that show us our true strength and resilience. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote, “People are like stained glass windows. When the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed by the light that shines out from within.”

Be safe tonight, and if you can, sit outside under the brilliant blanket of stars. The light of the holidays will be here soon, but let tonight be a gift of the darkness.

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