And the Light Went Out . . .

I dressed in black,
ate my dinner earlier than usual
and drove one canyon over to rehearse.

DSC01442The sanctuary was filled
with evening light when I walked in,
heightening the lavenders and blues,
those deeply colored pieces
that fit inside the clerestory windows.
DSC01437 Musicians and readers met in the balcony,
our home as the sun made its way down,
down behind the hills and the sea.
No paper trail this night,
only the dark light of the screens
to guide us from scripture to painting, to silence.
Then to poem, to song,
to the loss of
one more layer of light. DSC01438 There is a sober feel to this night,
a quietness that invades our spirits

and guides our tongues.
Nothing is wasted.
No breath, no sigh, no syllable.
DSC01439 It is crowded and cramped where we sit,
bound by chair legs and mic stands,
script pages and surreptitious, hooded lamps.
DSC01440 The chandeliers,
hand-pounded
by an artist-blacksmith
in the valley,
remind me of crowns tonight.
Crowns fit for a king –
or one falsely accused. DSC01443 We begin with full brightness,
streaming in through the windows,

and shining out
from every light
in the house.  DSC01444 From my perch,
high above the worshippers,
I watch the space darken,
and feel the weight of it
settle into my bones.
My foot is aching this night,
tired from too much joyful standing,
baking and decorating,
standing beside my tall grandgirl,
who loves to try new things.
DSC01445And I’m glad that it hurts.
Not in a strange or masochistic way,

no. Rather, I am grateful to identify,
even in a small way, with
the pain of this day.
With the darkness,
the good and necessary darkness.
The darkness which brought us 
everlasting light;
the darkness in which the Good
was splayed out before us all,
absorbing our fallenness,
our brokenness,
our sinfulness,
our shame. IMG_4098 I am reading poetry tonight,
my partner a retired English prof

from a nearby college,
a wise and kind man,
who answers my queries
about
meaning and inflection,
about rhythm and pace.
DSC01446We hear the story,
the old story,
the true story.
We look at etchings,
beautiful, old etchings.
And we sing.
Sweetly, reverently, we sing. 
IMG_4097Seven times, a candle is snuffed out.
Seven words from John.
Seven songs are sung.

But only six poems.

For, in the end,
at the end,
there are no words.

Only the blessed darkness.

And then,
the Christ candle begins to move,

lifted high, cradled,
down the steps,

into the night.

And this time,
this time as I watch it go by
into the darkest space of all,
the one directly below my chair,

I weep.

This is a space where I cannot  be,
where I cannot see

the gleaming of His light.

And it hits me,
as if for the first time,
that this light went out.

The Light of the world willingly
went out,

was laid deep in the earth,
and did not shine.

How did any of us survive that darkness?

And yet . . . that very darkness
birthed
RESURRECTION.

Perhaps, I need to rethink
the meaning of the word,
the reality,
the gift
of darkness.

My deep thanks to Jon Lemmond for his wonderful script, to him and to Don Johnson for their masterful reading of the scripture, to Bob Gross, Jon Martin and Janet Spencer for such lovely musical leadership, to Tanner Gross for managing powerpoint and light level, and to my reading partner, John Sider. And special thanks for and to the poets – Richard Crashaw, John Byrom, Gerald Manley Hopkins, George Herbert, Christina Rosetti and Tania Runyon whose words graced this event with power, and with invitation.

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Comments

  1. Gwen Acres says:

    Simplybeautiful…..and so powerful. Thank you!

  2. Gwen Acres says:

    I would have wept with you…..

    I remember another Good Friday service in the old sanctuary. …the light dimming, the sounds of voices calling out the story, the thudding of hammer on nails, and leaving in sacred silence.

    • That was a readers’ theater drama that we did in the gym. It had been a tradition when I arrived in 1996 and it fell to me to organize it once I came. June Michealsen did the script and Curt acted as Jesus every year. That gave way to a more traditional Service of Darkness once Don came. In those years, we combined Maundy Thursday with Good Friday by beginning the drama with communion, starting the drama with the Last Supper. It was quite effective as I recall. :>)

  3. Diana, this was powerful….the phrase “a good and necessary darkness” will stick with me. And I’m curious, which poem of Tania’s did you read? Her ‘Second Sky’ volume made me stop and sigh on every page.
    Blessed Resurrection Day to you!

    • It’s a beautiful poem about Mary watching Jesus die and remembering him as a baby and boy, centered around a small birthmark on his wrist. Stunning, really. The title was not printed in the script and an internet search has not helped me – but it’s from “A Thousand Vessels” published by WordFarm in 2011. I’m trying to figure out how to read it into an audio file and upload it here.

  4. Contemplating the darkness uniquely prepares us to experience the euphoria of Easter morning. Thank you for your imagery, Diana, to help us do just that.

  5. Diana, thank you for the audiofile! What other poems were read at the service?

    • You’re welcome, Megan. They came to me in a script. First was a section of “On Saint Peter Cutting Of Malchus’ Ear,” by Richard Crashaw; “Peter’s Denial of His Master,” by John Byrom; excerpts from “Pilate,” by Gerard Manley Hopkins; excerpts from “The Sacrifice,” by George Herbert; “Good Friday,” by Christina Rossetti; and section 1 of 3 from Tania’s “Mary at Calvary.”

  6. I liked the part about the minor pain you had in your foot, and how it served as reminder of His sufferings. Let’s face it, in our culture there’s not much suffering. So we almost have to force ourselves to see that end of things

    • For most of us, that is true, David. So, I’m grateful for the reminder that night, too. But I’ve seen some pretty major suffering – both in my family and in my parish, so there are some who know this stuff up close and personal. It’s good to look at once in a while, you know? To acknowledge how much suffering is a part of life here on planet earth and how willing Jesus was to take it on for us.

  7. This whole thing was so lovely, woke that little home-ache that hits me when I hear something beautiful about church. Thank you for sharing it and for the images.

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