According to the later retelling of St Gregory of Nyssa, Moses’ ascent of Mount Sinai was a journey into an ever-deepening darkness.
When, therefore, Moses grew in knowledge, he declared that he had seen God in the darkness, that is, that he had then come to know that what is divine is beyond all knowledge and comprehension, for the text says, ‘Moses approached the dark cloud where God was.’
Well, bully for Moses.
For some time now, I have been on my own journey – rather more of a descent than an ascent – into the dark. I can’t say I’ve noticed God there yet though. The closest encounter I’ve had with a celestial being has been spending my afternoons, still pajama-clad, watching old episodes of Mork and Mindy.
At its funnest, clinical depression is a boring, sapping illness. Days spread out endlessly before you; horizonless vistas with seemingly no hope of being filled. The weeks, though, just fly by. I’ve been writing this article for almost a month now. At this rate, I’ll be able to devote the final paragraph or two to some reflections on President Trump’s first six months in office. (Now, there’s a really depressing thought.)
Truly, as Paul might say, I am “without excuse” (Romans 1.20). For strangely enough, I’m not as though I’m wholly incapable of impressive feats of perseverance.
Tell me, mere mortal, just how many hours could you endure weeping along to Meat Loaf power ballads on repeat? And how many PC strategy games from the mid-1990s could you nostalgically rediscover, only to listlessly give up on after twenty minutes? Not remotely as many as I can, believe you me.
In a short blogpost for the Catholic Herald, I feel I ought to round this off with some hopeful testimony about how I’ve ultimately found solace and healing through the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, or the First Saturday Devotion, or in Christ’s promise to St Gemma Galgani that “after darkness comes light, and then you shall have light indeed”, or in – well – something, anything. Well, sorry to let you down.
I’ve no doubt that there’s much in the Christian spiritual and mystical tradition to console those suffering with mental illness: “treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places” (Isaiah 45.3) and all that. And I look forward to finding some, sometime. But for the time being, it doesn’t really feel that The Cloud of Unknowing could do much to dispel The Fog of Uncoping.
Do say please a prayer for me, though; St Gemma Galgani might be a good bet.
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