This season gives us a wonderful opportunity to sing carols for racial and gender justice. “O Holy Darkness” contributes to racial justice by changing the traditional symbolism of darkness as evil or ominous to darkness as creative bounty and beauty, emphasizing the sacred value of people of color through these positive images. This carol contributes to gender justice by emphasizing the sacred value of females, connecting the Divine Female to Holy Darkness and empowering us all to end injustice and heal the wounds of earth. This carol video is a gift for your Advent online worship services and personal meditations.
O Holy Darkness, loving womb, who nurtures and creates,
sustain us through the longest night with dreams of open gates.
We move inside to mystery that in our center dwells,
where streams of richest beauty flow from sacred, living wells.
Creative Darkness, closest friend, you whisper in the night;
you calm our fears as unknown paths surprise us with new sight.
We marvel at your bounty, your gifts so full and free,
unfolding as you waken us to new reality.
O Holy Night of deepest bliss, we celebrate your power;
infuse us with your energy that brings our seeds to flower.
The voice out of the darkness excites our warmest zeal
to bring together dark and light, true holiness reveal.
O come to us, Sophia; your image, black and fair,
stirs us to end injustice and the wounds of earth repair.
The treasures of your darkness and riches of your grace
inspire us to fulfill our call, our sacredness embrace.
Words © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians (Eakin Press, 2006)
Worship language and symbolism all too often contribute to racism as well as sexism. In many hymns, prayers, scripture readings, and sermons, images of darkness carry negative connotations while images of light carry positive connotations. Visual images of a white God fill many churches. This symbolism supports white supremacy, giving greatest value to white people while devaluing people of color.
Multicultural visual images of Deity and language that symbolizes darkness as creative bounty and beauty contribute to racial equality by emphasizing the equal sacred value of people of color. Imaging darkness/blackness as sacred lays a foundation for affirming that “BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Multicultural images of Deity intersect with female images of Deity to form a foundation for equality and justice. “O Holy Darkness” images darkness as a sacred well of richest beauty, as nurturing love, and as creative bounty. This song draws from Isaiah 45:3 that celebrates “the treasures of darkness” and from the Hebrew word rahum, usually translated “compassion” in the Bible, but Hebrew Bible scholar Phyllis Trible shows that it’s more accurately translated “womb-love.” Sophia (Greek word for “Wisdom” in the New Testament) is a female divine name and image. Sophia is most often pictured as dark. The treasures of Her darkness inspire us all to claim our sacredness and to affirm the sacredness of all others.
It was a joy to collaborate on this video with Shannon Kincaid, an outstanding vocal and visual artist. Shannon sings “O Holy Darkness” to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Her beautiful painting of Oprah Winfrey holding a child creates a powerful finale for this video. Shannon’s painting of Oprah now hangs above the fireplace in the library of The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Performed by: Shannon Kincaid
Accompanied by: Ron Dilulio, Danny Hubbard, and Jerry Hancock
Lyrics: Jann Aldredge-Clanton
Stacy Boorn: “Black Madonna” and “Mystery”
Photo from The Gathering, A Womanist Church
Elaine Chan-Scherer: “Mary Magdalene”
Mirta Toledo: “Sophia”
Katie Ketchum: “Birds and Roses”
Shannon Kincaid: “Oprah & Child”