Entering Darkness & Silence on the Longest Night --
Darkness begins to settle, and the shadows cast from dozens flickering candles create a shadow dance on the walls of the dimly lit sanctuary. The profile of the cross, backlit to dramatic effect, calls us to lift our eyes and turn our minds toward Christ. The aroma of freshly baked bread permeates the air we breathe in anticipation of the meal we will share. The faithful who are called to this discipline enter and gather in silence, each immersed in his or her thoughts. Taizé music plays softly in the background.
At the hour, the chime calls us into awareness of our oneness within this group and with the whole church as we share in the timeless rhythm and practice of Evening Prayer and Eucharist. The vesper candle is lit and the leader intones, “Light and peace in Jesus Christ,” and the response is chanted, “Thanks be to God.”
Thanks be to God indeed for the gift of Evening Prayer, in which we join our prayers with those of the whole body of Christ in unceasing prayer and praise to the one who made us. We settle into the rhythm of song and prayer, intercessions, scripture, and silence that I have come to understand as story and relationship. Through those simple means we affirm who God is and who we are in relationship with the Holy One.
We share the stories of our faith, stories of God’s faithfulness and active presence in the lives of his children throughout many centuries. Hearts open and thoughts soar as we settle deeper into the mystery, “Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts” (Ps. 42:7). The intercessions, sharing of present hopes and troubles, and lifting prayers for others bring into sharp focus just how much we need that relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; we are aligned with the reality of God active and present, here and now. A deeper knowing assures us that the God who was and is, is also the God who will be always and forever real in our lives. (Suzanne Clement)