All begins in darkness. In silence. In cold.
In the beginning, there was light eventually but the Spirit hovered over the waters in darkness. While the chaos waters — tehom — raged about Her, I somehow enter the scene with the raging on mute.
And it always feels cold.
Creation feels cold to me.
Light has not come yet.
Far from being hopeless, because good and evil had not yet been designed as we believed good and evil to be, the darkness and the cold and the silence are the womb of creation. Only a person who has lived her entire life with deep long winters, snows, frozen waters, and plunging temperatures can love the beauty and depth of a such a creation.
Had humanity been the first to be created, we would have died. In the darkness, in the silence, in the cold.
Gregory of Nyssa believed that as we grow closer to God, the light — our katophatic experiences of God — enters into darkness and become apophatic. We are thoroughly unable to know God. So as intimate as we are with the divine, we come to know and understand God less.
Says the patriarch.
There’s something to said for the humility in declaring how little we know God or about God as we grow deeper in God’s life. There’s not denying that. What I’m wondering at is the powerful mystery that all begins in darkness, silence, and cold.
Creation, winter, the womb.
But the womb is warm! It invites growth and safety and nurturing.
True, but not all colds are literal. The womb, even in a protective stance, can be a hostile environment internally and externally. Every bit of food and drink I ingest will impact life in the womb. Every life choice I make is made for new life. Every societal attitude screaming for or against life shapes within the womb a landscape of hatred, love, desire, and bitter regret.
And when the womb is closed at any age, the grief welcomes in a winter of new — and perhaps unwanted — beginnings. It becomes a wasteland to the naked eye and we turn our faces away in sorrow.
Oh yes, the womb can be a cold place.
We fear darkness, we fear silence, and we fear the cold. We even despise these things. When darkness is intrinsically linked to badness, ask a person of colour how easy it is to breathe “black is beautiful”. Darkness is related to the realm of the demonic, of secretive deeds unwilling to be brought into the light, and shames we hide.
For the light entered the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it, after all.
We need light! God brings that light, but She hovered in darkness first. She moved in silence first. She retained both warmth and cold within herself, so neither overcame her and both were bolstered in Her form.
As I sit here and watch the advance of winter and go through the motions of the semi-annual human-designed time-change, I feel myself welcoming the darkness, the silence, and the cold. If you’ve ever stood outside during a snowfall simply to listen to it — to listen to the snow fall — you’ll that you can hear a form of silence unlike any other in the universe. The cold heightens some sounds across wintry fields, while the snow mutes others. Sounds normal to my day-to-day summer life are now quiet and still, even if they are remain alive.
It all begins here. Now. In darkness, silence, and cold.
Far from being nights of death and despair, they are nights of incubation, of gestation, of anticipation. Without these nights and short days, we are a dying people in a dying world. She knew this in the beginning, and lived it in the beginning.
My body is an expression of the beginning: holding darkness, silence, and womb in worlds of chaos, clamouring for dominance. Instead of piercing the chaos with light, I am able to wait. The beauty of darkness cannot be overstated. Without taking months to discover God in these places, I will never experience God as She.
Instead of speaking first, I soak in the wintry silence — of my room, of the forest, of my self — and begin to understand that without silence settling in first, my speaking only continues the chaos. The time for speaking must be chosen with deep intention, knowing the powerful impacts words will spill over the world. She knew this before echoing “Let there be light!”
This was so.
My life as a womb can hold worlds. It has never been gifted with the presence of a physical child, but I have the power to hold space and time for new life in ways as yet unknown or understood. Life needs time to die out, to resurrect, to gestate. Life needs space to form, reform, and grow. In this way I was conceived and birthed, and in this way I can carry new life in the world.
And so she did. Whether Mary consented fully to Spirit or not, I may never quite know. But she held space and time for a human life to be ready to breathe the air of a chaotic world. Without her, life would have miscarried. And as she birthed this peculiarity of a male child, I have to ponder and strangeness of it all. If Jesus was really fully human and fully divine, his humanness would have held only one set of chromosomes: hers.
Anatomically male, Jesus would have carried entirely female genes. As She held warmth and cold in the beginning, so Jesus carried a full spectrum of sexes within his person. Is it such an odd or radical thing, then, that Jesus conversed with women? That he could see women as the beloved, powerful humans they were and are? That he longed to relate to women? It’s not so far of a stretch.
Nor is the grave.
Death — dark, silent, and cold.
Yet they were needed for new life to rise again. We are afraid of these things. We are afraid of the grave. Yet when She breathed new life into Herself, it was as it was in the beginning — dark, silent, and cold — a hostile womb that gestated the first of the greatest life of all.
Darkness, silence, and cold.
In all these things, She moved and lives and has Her Being.
And in these things, I am.