Month: October 2012

Darkness comes

This past weekend we changed from summer to winter time. Practically speaking this means that it gets light earlier in the morning, but the darkness descends around four in the afternoon. So even though it is dark when I get up, by the time I cycle off to work it is light. The homeward journey, at the end of the day, is in darkness. There are still two months left till the shortest day of the year. In a few more weeks it will be dark at both ends of the day, as the light contracts.

This darkness is part of the yearly cycle for Scandinavians, and the further north you go, the longer and deeper it becomes. Far up beyond the Arctic Circle the sun never rises above the horizon for part of the year. It is very cosy sitting beside the fire in the evenings, as I am doing now, but it is bitter outside. Winter depression is not at all unusual – many struggle. I am reminded of the poems of GM Hopkins that I learnt at school:

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
This night! what sights you, heart saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light’s delay.

O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.

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Finlandsresa

Last weekend we crossed the Baltic to Finland, on one of the Viking Line’s ferries, the Gabriella. We spent the whole of Sunday wandering around Helsinki, or Helsingfors as the Swedes call it. Churches abound, not least of which is the majestic domed cathedral at the head of the main town square, white and green and gold. The sky was a spectacular blue strewn with wispy herring bone clouds; a biting cold wind blew in from the sea. I wondered vaguely if the churches would be holding services; it was Sunday morning after all, but I saw no-one emerging and the only door we tried was locked. Whatever services were being held we missed.Operation World says this about Finland: “Christians may number 84% of the population, but society is effectively a secular one… Spirituality has more or less become privatized.”

Sweden is the same. It is regarded as inappropriate to speak publicly about personal faith. Christians have withdrawn behind the walls of their churches and seldom engage their belief systems with society at large. Society is increasingly hostile to the exclusivity of Christianity. Exclusivity is seen as intolerance, and intolerance is the ultimate sin in modern Western society. The idea of absolute truth is seen as old-fashioned and naive. Most Christians believe in absolute truth, and most believe that Jesus is the only way to God. This is offensive to the modern Western mind.

I long to see Christianity become more public. I long to be more public with my own faith. I believe we have nothing to be ashamed of. We can be proud to be followers of Jesus. We need to stop being afraid and realize how much Christianity has given to the world and how much we still have to give to a world in need.

Autumn

The temperature is dropping. Friday evening cycling home I am chilled to the bone. Back in the warmth of our kitchen I check the temperature outside: 4.7 degrees. Autumn is here. These last weeks have been mostly a damp drizzle of grey wet days, but suddenly a glorious day of sun and blue explodes, pushing back dreary fog and rain, the reds and golds of changing leaves splashing their brightness on a vivid autumn canvas. The depression that has crept over me these last weeks subsides and I am filled with the joy of the fresh and bracing air; my cheeks burn red from a biting wind, I feel invigorated and alive, and life bursts forth from a world which only yesterday seemed to be sinking into the dormancy of its winter sleep. Its good to be alive these sunny autumn days.