Longest Night (and the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle)

Throughout the season of Advent, you may want to create a small sacred space for prayer and quiet. Each week I’ll suggest a small “everyday” item you can add to your space (or carry with you!) to help you reflect on the week’s theme. Find the St. Benedict quotation printable here.


Habakkuk 2:1-4
I will take my post;
I will position myself on the fortress.
I will keep watch to see
what the Lord says to me
and how he will respond to my complaint.

Psalm 126

Hebrews 10:35-11:1
But we aren’t the sort of people who timidly draw back and end up being destroyed. We’re the sort of people who have faith so that our whole beings are preserved.

Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.

John 20:24-29
“Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.”

Add a Christmas tree bulb or any other kind of lightbulb—ideally a burned-out one—to your sacred space. On this longest night of the year, as we await the coming of the Light, reflect on darkness.

The Longest Night of the year falls on the feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle, who at first missed seeing the resurrected Christ in the upper room, then refused to believe in the resurrection until he saw for himself. 

On this night, we lean into the symbolism of the dark, of not knowing for certain that the Light will come—has come. We recognize that dark is part of the cycle of life, of sleeping seeds and of spinning planets. Dark is not a bad thing to be fought or avoided, but that doesn’t mean it has to feel good—or that we should act like it does. In the dark we can tell the truth: we are hurt, fearful, alone. There is no point in pretending in the dark; no one is watching us.

Darkness can be our teacher. In the dark we learn to pause, to look inward, to release control. We learn to better understand and to accept the cycles that swirl around and within us. We learn to wait.

On this longest night, we pause in the sorrows of this year. There are so many. New life may seem to us—as to Thomas—like wishful thinking. What are you waiting for in the dark? What are you hoping to see?

The year has had so many long nights, Lord.
Nights when sleep evaded us, taunting, playing keep-away.
Nights when tears overwhelmed us in waves, in floods.
Nights when it seemed the joy of morning would never come.

On this longest night, we remember every other:
our burning eyes, our broken breath, our numbing mind.

Lord, change our circumstances for the better,
like dry streams in the desert waste!

On this night, we live the journey that
darkness always demands from us:
never around, but only through. This night, we journey through
the turning of the day, the season, the year.
The turning of time itself.

Hear our cries and our complaints in this longest darkness.

Hear our confession:
it is hard to believe what we cannot see—when we cannot see. 

Let those who plant with tears
reap the harvest with joyful shouts.

Be with us in darkness, Lord.
Be our comfort and companion.
Be our watch-keeper and our caretaker.

Grant us rest, gather our tears, and nurture us for growth.

Let those who go out,
crying and carrying their seed,
come home with joyful shouts,
carrying bales of grain!

(Psalm 126:4, 5, and 6)

Light and Shadow, by Emile Auguste Carolus-Doran, 1895. In the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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