A PRAYER IN DARKNESS

a season from darkness to light, from sadness to joy…

Men say the sun was darkened: yet I had
Thought it beat brightly, even on–Calvary:
And He that hung upon the Torturing Tree
Heard all the crickets singing, and was glad.
-G. K. Chesterton, A Prayer in Darkness, 1920

We usually start Advent with this poem from Chesterton when we look at this time as being entirely liturgical. But under our current crisis with the ups and downs of the pandemic and our country, it may be that you and I have experienced, not a straight linear path, but one of ups and downs, from darkness to light this year. Sometimes the light seems well within sight one day, only to have a dark day right after.

Such a way was not unfamiliar to both Gilbert and Frances; they both had griefs and struggles throughout their lives. Frances struggled with depression over the death of one of her relatives and the unfulfilled longing to have a child. And Gilbert shared her sorrows as well as his own struggles.

Writer Michael J. Lichens had this to say about Chesterton’s struggles in his book Chesterton the Poet:

“While Chesterton was seen as a generally happy man, some scholarship indicates that he may have battled a depressive mood now and again. Certainly he wrote about the afflictions of his mind while a young man, and the death of his beloved brother caused him to compose some uncharacteristic harsh words in letters as well as meditations on suffering. In one of these spells he wrote A Prayer in Darkness which, to this author’s mind, is Chesterton’s most moving poem.

A Prayer in Darkness deals with some darker themes, much like his more famous A Ballade of Suicide, but it is also a poem of hope and gladness. The speaker of both poems is not able to change everything, but can find the things in life and in God that enable him to say, “I think I will not hang myself to-day.” It is not a mere empty comfort or a song of self-help but is in fact an acknowledgement of the state of the world and the troubles of the mind while still possessing the faith, hope, and tenacity to seek out what makes life worth living.”

Here to consider for today’s Advent reflection even as we are just days away from what for the Christian is the most joyous time of the year, A Prayer in Darkness:

A Prayer in Darkness by G.K. Chesterton

THIS much, O heaven—if I should brood or rave,
Pity me not; but let the world be fed,
Yea, in my madness if I strike me dead,
Heed you the grass that grows upon my grave.

If I dare snarl between this sun and sod,
Whimper and clamour, give me grace to own,
In sun and rain and fruit in season shown,
The shining silence of the scorn of God.

Thank God the stars are set beyond my power,
If I must travail in a night of wrath,
Thank God my tears will never vex a moth,
Nor any curse of mine cut down a flower.

Men say the sun was darkened: yet I had
Thought it beat brightly, even on—Calvary:
And He that hung upon the Torturing Tree
Heard all the crickets singing, and was glad.

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