Imagery of church-related people and places.

Blessings for the Longest Night

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Photo by Analyse Triolo

by Analyse Triolo
Proclaim Member

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

This time last year I was on internship at Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan, in New York City, preparing my very first “Service of the Longest Night” and writing a post for this very blog joining my experiences with that of other Proclaim members as we awaited the Advent of the longest night of the year. We each prepared for that night with a service for people who, like many of us, feel the sting of loss more acutely at this time of year.  For me this became therapeutic as I grieved the recent loss of my mother, Diane, who had passed four months earlier.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
arriving
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

I couldn’t have known at the time just how impactful my experiences leading a “Service of the Longest Night” would be. After our service concluded with Jan Richardson’s “Blessing for the Longest Night,” I spoke with a member who shared with me their experience of profound loss, and how they felt disconnected from the joy of the Christmas season even years after losing their loved one.  I was so scared of leading a service like this because I didn’t think I’d be able to control my own emotions while holding worshipers in their own grief. What I learned is that I didn’t need to be strong enough. As we each named our saints and placed a white rose on the altar for each, all we needed to do was walk that hidden road together, in the company of one another.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

Within days of that service we lost my paternal grandfather, and several months later my grandmother as well. As I led each of their funerals, some of the longest nights of the year for my family, I kept coming back to Jan Richardson’s words in this blessing and others from A Cure For Sorrow.  In these words, we found solace in the knowledge that we aren’t alone in our grieving.  Nor is any of us as we traverse this road together, trusting that it is always darkest before the dawn.

 

Poem “Blessing for the Longest Night” from A Cure for Sorrow by Jan Richardson.  Emphasis added.


Analyse Triolo (she/her/hers) has found herself in the long, drawn-out Advent otherwise known as Awaiting First Call. Struggling to be patient, she accepted a job as a Math and Science teacher at a local Elementary School. (Who says Science and Religion can’t coexist?!)  She holds a Master of Divinity from the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, a Masters of Arts in Ministry from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and is told she’s a Master Crafter too! Her new favorite hashtag is #CallMeMaybe.

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