The Monsters In The Shadows And The Light

The Monsters In The Shadows And The Light October 18, 2021

Stefano Corso: Scary Monsters / flickr

It is darkest before the dawn, but once the light shines forth, what has been hidden in the dark will be revealed as the darkness becomes but a shadow of its former self. This is true, not just for physical light, but spiritual light as well. The darkness of sin is at its greatest before its exposure to the Sun of Righteousness. Evil seems triumphant, but then, when it is exposed to the light, it will recede in the shadows, striking out and causing pain to all those who come near it,

Until the light fully shines within us, until the soul is so purified by the light that no darkness remains within, the shadow of sin will give birth to monsters within, demonic powers which are capable of causing us great harm to us so long as we do not expel them from our soul by bringing the light of grace to the places in which they thrive. We must embrace the light, or else, we will find that these daemonic monsters will pull us into shadows; indeed, if we do not escape their grasp, they will drag us into the pit of despair:

Divine hope uplifts the heart, but fear of Gehenna crushes it. The light of the mind gives birth to faith; faith gives birth to the consolation of hope; hope fortifies the heart. Faith is the unveiling of the understanding. When the mind is darkened, faith is hidden, fear holds sway over us, and our hope is cut off. It is not the faith that comes from instruction which frees a man from pride and doubt, but the faith that is beheld and dawns in the understanding; this is called knowledge and the revelation of truth. As long as the mind perceives God as God by His being revealed to the understanding, fear will not approach the heart. When we are permitted to be in darkness and we lose this perception, then fear will assail us until we are humbled and we draw nigh to humility and repentance. [1]

We must not be afraid of the monsters within; we must be willing to look directly at them in the light and see them for what they really are. They possess power over us because we give it to them. The problem is that our sin, our own impurities, get in the way of the light. When the light seems too bright, we are tempted to turn away from. But we must not do so. We must patiently wait. We must let it shine upon us. If we do so, we will become adjusted to it. Then, we will be able to see and experience all things in its glorious presence.  Until this happens, the monsters within will entice us to go back to the darkness, where the light is mollified and its brightness will seem to trouble us no more. They suggest that the half-light in the shadow is where we belong, but if and when we accept their call, we will find that the darkness brings back to us all the horrors which we have tried to avoid.

We must not let the monsters seduce us and drag us down with them. They come with half-truths, with a half-a-light, bragging of their power and might, all of which they have because they still possess a little of the light in themselves. If we let them, they would overwhelm us with their little light, using it to trap us as we seek to hide from the light ourselves. As long as we try to avoid the light ourselves, as long as we hide in the darkness, they can use what light they have to appear as beings of light, threatening us with what light they have if we do not listen to and follow what they tell us to do. But if we turn back to the true, pure light of grace, if we move out of the dark and let the light shine in us, we will see them for what they are, and see how feeble their light really is. We will see how we have turned them into something they are not through our imagination:

Dark, evil forces possess only a seeming, imaginary, illegitimate self-evident certainty with which they seduce us and lead us away from the path of truth. But insofar as these forces claim to possess such certainty, they belong to the sphere of the spirit, for they are experienced as an element that illuminates our immediate self-being and give it genuine, intrinsically valid reality. [2]

Thus, to overcome the darkness, and the monsters which dwell within it, we most slowly adjust to the true light which lies beyond the darkness, to let the light in and purify us. If we do not do so, we will find ourselves turning away from the light and falling back into the darkness. “If the little pupil of your soul’s eye has not been purified, do not venture to gaze into the sun, lest you be deprived of your normal visual power and be cast into one of those noetic realms, that is to say, Tartarus, which is a type of Sheol: I mean, darkness outside of God.”[3]

No matter what we do, we cannot avoid facing the monsters within. Either we will be taken prisoner by them as we embrace the darkness, or we will come face to face to them and see them for what they are in the light of truth. In either situation, they will try to terrify us, but if we embrace the light, they will seem pathetic and so we will not be afraid. The more we adjust to the light of grace, the more purified we become in our soul, the weaker they will become until at last, they will vanish as the darkness within is eliminated. This is because the Sun of Righteousness will shine so bright, all places will be illuminated by it; Then, there will be no darkness left; evil will disappear, revealing its unsubstantial nature:

For our Lord and Savior willed to illuminate all places in order to have mercy on all. He came down from heaven to earth in order to visit the world.  He down further to the lower world in order to illumine those who were being held in the lower world, in accordance with the statement of the prophet who said, “You who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, a light has arisen for you” [Isa 9:2]. [4]

Nonetheless, we must remember, it is darkest before the dawn. When we experience pain and sorrow, when we experience the power of the darkness in our lives, when monsters attack us from within, know that the light can and will shine; if we turn to it, if we let ourselves become adjusted to it, so we are purified by its power, the darkness will vanish. The monsters and their masks will be cast aside. Then, we will find ourselves joining in with the communion of the saints in the kingdom of God, enjoying the bounty we are to receive when we dwell in and with the true light.

[1] Saint Isaac the Syrian, The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian. Trans. Monks of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery. Rev. 2nd ed (Boston, MA: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 2011), 384 [Homily 51].

[2] S. L. Frank, The Unknowable: An Ontological Introduction To The Philosophy of Religion. Trans. Boris Jakim (Brooklyn, NY: Angelico Press, 2020), 167.

[3] Saint Isaac the Syrian, The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian, 555[Appendix A Homily VII].

[4] St. Chromatius of Aquileia, Sermons and Tractates on Matthew. Trans. Thomas P. Scheck (New York: Newman Press, 2018), 60 [Sermon 16].


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