Rector's Letter for November
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Are you affected by SAD (Seasonally affected disorder)? Do the darker nights, the shorter days, play with your heart? Many people are. We seem to squeeze all sorts of things into the daylight hours and hunker down at night. The bible has lots to say about light and dark. The straightforward message seems to be that light is good and dark is, well, dark. Darkness seems to play into a sense of the absence of God. In the darkness, sin, death and the powers of Evil stalk us, apparently.
So, let me suggest some ways in which, in the dark evenings, we may challenge this narrative in our hearts and minds.
Light a candle. I know, old fashioned, superseded by electricity and, should you want to go down that line, a health and safety nightmare. But there is something immensely powerful about a flickering flame, dancing shadows and a sense of presence. Sitting quietly in a room with a flame burning, listening to some beautiful music (whatever that may be for you), having a visual reminder that light overcomes darkness, that God is and is present, may turn a nightly fear of fading light into a daily period of quiet joy.
Compline. Not Complan. That’s food for the body. Compline is food for the soul. It is the short service of Night Prayer, said before retiring to bed (or said in bed, for those who say their prayers there). It’s available in a variety of ways, in paper form (see House on the Rock books if you would like to pursue this), as podcasts, on the internet, on the phone. Short psalms and readings, brief prayers and that sense that we are handing over ourselves to God.
Intercession. When we pray, one of the things we are doing is joining in with a whole worldwide stream of prayers. To slowly go through our list of family and friends, to hold them before God, is to become aware that we are doing so with countless other people. Suddenly, we are not alone. Our quiet voice joins theirs.
Learn a prayer. One of my favourite night-time prayers was written by St Augustine. It goes like this;
Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight, and give your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ.
Rest your weary ones.
Bless your dying ones.
Soothe your suffering ones.
Pity your afflicted ones.
Shield your joyous ones, and all for your love’s sake. Amen.
I love it because it keys into the fact that, at night, those who are sick and those who are caring for them, can feel enormously isolated and those who spend so many of their night hours looking up at the ceiling can feel so burdened and lonely. It is a prayer for them. It puts my issues, whatever they are, into some sort of perspective.
And why this theme of prayer this November? Simply because the Church invites us to focus on saints in November and invites us to think about our place as counted among their number. God calls us to be beacons of light and hope and joy in this world, to be bearers of resistance against all those narratives of decay and despair. And to do that, we ourselves need to be in touch with him.
There is much going on, in daylight and in the hours of darkness. Have a flick through this edition of the magazine. Be tempted out to come to something that is not a usual part of your life. But don’t miss out on the opportunity the darker nights give you to reacquaint yourself with the Lord and with your inner life.
With love and prayers,