Advent is a journey from darkness to light

In C.S. Lewis’ “The Last Battle,” a group of dwarfs live in a pitch-black, smelly stable, unaware of the beautiful world around them. Lucy encourages them to wake up: “Can’t you see the sky and the trees and the flowers? Can’t you see me?” But in their bleak world, they refuse to see anything.

Lucy begs Aslan — who represents Jesus — to do something for these wretched fellows, but they reject his efforts. “Their prison is only in their minds, but they are in that prison,” Aslan explains.

Sometimes we fall into darkness, when we turn away from God and lose hope. We burrow into a prison of our own making, and when God tries to free us, we cling to the bars. The first words God speaks in Genesis are: “Let there be light.” The deepest message of Advent is turning from darkness and immersing ourselves in Christ’s light.

When I lost my husband, darkness threatened to engulf me. Some days I couldn’t see a reason to be alive, but still continued going to daily Mass and praying. At his funeral, the priest said, “When you think of Jef, think of Jesus, and when you think of Jesus, think of Jef.” These words helped me remain hopeful that I would someday see my husband again in the presence of God.

Advent comes at the darkest time of the year. The light dwindles each day, leading to the winter solstice on Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year. At Christmas, the days start lengthening, which is appropriate, since Jesus was called the true light that entered the world. Still, dark deeds were underway when he was born, as King Herod sent soldiers to slaughter baby boys in his ruthless attempt to kill this newborn king.

Some people are thrown into prison, but don’t succumb to darkness. One person was Alfred Delp, a Jesuit priest who was imprisoned in 1944 in Berlin during Hitler’s reign. In his bleak prison cell, Delp said Mass secretly and wrote reflections on his faith that were later published.

He said Advent calls us to change our hearts and escape from complacency. Awaiting execution, he wrote that a Christian “must himself throughout these gray days go forth as a bringer of glad tidings.”

Walter Ciszek, another Jesuit priest, spent 23 agonizing years in the gulags and labor camps of Russia during World War II. Toiling in the salt mines in freezing weather was a brutal reality, accompanied by grueling interrogations that left him shaken and frightened. Despite sickness, exhaustion and hunger, he never gave up hope.

His life’s purpose became bringing the light of Christ to the other prisoners by saying secret Masses for them. In “He Leadeth Me,” he wrote, “Life in the labor camps was Calvary for these men in many ways every day. There was nothing I would not do to offer the sacrifice of Calvary again for them each day in the Mass.”

The heart of the Christian faith is trusting Christ, who said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” No matter how bleak the world may seem, Advent reminds us nothing can extinguish the supernatural brightness and love of Christ. During the gray days of Advent, let’s bring joy and brightness to others!

Lorraine is the author of eight books, available online. Her email address is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com.