God, every night is hard.
Always there are some awake,
who turn, turn, and do not find you.
Don’t you hear them crying out
as they go farther and farther down?
Surely you hear them weep; for they are weeping.
I seek you, because they are passing
right by my door. Whom should I turn to,
if not the one whose darkness
is darker than night, the only one
who keeps vigil with no candle,
and is not afraid –
the deep one, whose being I trust,
for it breaks through the earth into the trees,
when I bow my head,
faint as a fragrance
from the soil.
~Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Hours II, 3
To me, this poem reads like a prayer. As theologian Miroslav Volf would put it, though, this is not a “thin” prayer; rather, it is “thick” in complexity, insight, and meaning.
I resonate with the struggle of the poet, as well as with the ironic reference to God being dark (as opposed to light). This reminds me of many of the Christian mystics, such as John of the Cross, who famously writes about the “dark night of the soul,” as well as Barbara Brown Taylor’s reframing of the benefits of darkness. Maybe I’m not the only one who finds God mysterious? As stated by Gerhard Tersteegen, “A God comprehended is no God.”
Alternatively to this, I love the idea of a God who is so comfortable with darkness that It can “keep vigil with no candle” and not be afraid.
In the midst of uncertainty, Rilke notes that he ultimately can trust “the being” of the deep one, as It manifests itself in faint and beautiful ways around him.