It’s not until we close our eyes that we begin to see. St John of the Cross writes: “Faith is a dark night for man, but in this very way it gives him light” (Ascent of Mt. Carmel Bk. 2. Ch. 3. #4). This is one of those statements that make you twist your mind into a pretzel. It’s a paradox. How can darkness give light?

Perhaps the answer lies in what we consider “light.” Is it what we see--the eyewitness account? Is it what we know or what we expect, the endpoints of our thoughts? All of these 'lights" can conflict or be wrong, and thus do little to illumine the reality of the situation.

St. John of the Cross points out that we can’t know the truth with our brains. We need faith...not because it's the resort of the blind, the easy answer for those who would rather not think. Rather, we need and secretly crave faith. Reason, though important, is a light that leads us into the "tunnel"; the light of faith is what leads us out.

But before faith can do its work, we must first be willing to take a walk in the dark, setting aside what we consider wisdom and understanding, setting aside our senses and everything that we depend on for safety and security. This is how John of the Cross puts it: “The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. The soul has to proceed by unknowing rather than knowing” (Ascent of Mt. Carmel Bk. 1. Ch. 4. #5).

Why is this so hard? Would it be as hard, if to win a million dollars we had to let a chesssmaster take over a game of chess for us? Would we insist on using the light of our chess vision to guide the game? Or would we trust the chessmaster, even when he does things we don’t understand? So it is with the divine chessmaster. He's willing to trade in his light for our darkness... marvelous deal if you ask me.


Leave a Reply

What Does It Mean To Be Human?