Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Night doesn't fall. That is too harsh and noisy a term. Our gentle Creator God planned a tender time of day called twilight before He draws the curtains of night and turns off the blazing light of the sun.

 It is better said that twilight fades, that it becomes dark. Twilight descends imperceptibly in ever darkening half-measures until all is at rest. After the rough and tumble activities of the day, the hot winds subside. They are displaced by a kindlier, gentler breeze that cools the sweaty brow. Twilight is an early kiss goodnight, a time to be savored, to be sighed over, smiled at, to relax in. Heaven is touching earth with rest. A time to worship and adore The Lord Most High.

For a scientific explanation you can define twilight as the time of day between daylight and darkness, whether that's after sunset or before sunrise. (Ah-ha, I didn't know that in every 24 hours our generous God gave us two twilights—I thought there was only one!) Dawn is the encore twilight, the counterpart to evening's sunset. Or vice versa. At both times the light from the sky appears diffused and often pinkish. Twilight literally means half-light, semi-darkness, dusk, or gloom. The sun slips noiselessly below the horizon, but its rays are scattered by Earth's atmosphere to create the colors of twilight we exclaim over. The further the sun is below the horizon, the dimmer the twilight. When it reaches 18 degrees below the horizon, “at the twilight's last gleaming,” sunlight is nearly zero and nighttime is upon us. When you reverse that, nighttime becomes morning twilight or dawn. Both twilights are characterized by the absence of shadows and the appearance of objects silhouetted against the bright sky. Photographers refer to twilight as “sweet light,” and artists call it the blue hour.

We have twilight because Earth has an atmosphere. Some light filters through small particles in the atmosphere so there's still some diffused light lingering in the sky even after the sun has gone down. This time of day is important for a lot of reasons to many people. Astronomers are waiting for true darkness so they can begin their observations. Navigators await the dark sky so they can set their course by the position of stars. Ordinary folks are awestruck by gorgeous, indescribable sunsets day after day. (Real photo below taken from my deck on one of those spectacular twilights)

Evening twilight can be tinged with sadness if the term is used metaphorically to imply that something is losing strength and approaching its end. A synonym for twilight is a time of decline, waning, ebbing, final years, the tail end. There can be a feeling of melancholy. The elderly may be said to be “in the twilight of their lives.” On the other hand, hope rises with the brightest stars and planets, Venus, the morning star or evening star, and Jupiter, becoming visible to the naked eye. Soon more celestial bodies appear like scattered diamonds on the dark velvet of the sky. A relatively few hours later God offers a second optimistic twilight and the dawn of a fresh new day dispels the perceived sadness.

In Christian practice, “vigil” observances often begin during twilight on the evening before major feast days or holidays. For example, the Easter Vigil is held in the hours of darkness between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Day—between the two twilights. The joyous celebration of Jesus' resurrection is often marked by “sunrise services” as the dawn twilight sun rises triumphantly in the East.

I honestly try to finish my tasks for the day by twilight—I don't always succeed, to my regret. For me it is a slice of time for worship, for silence and reflection. And a time to paint with words what I observe and what I feel in the depths of my being:

Late February Twilight

Pink and blue twilight recedes

giving way to leaden skies

snow begins to sift gently

covering the familiar landscape

with a blanket of powdered sugar

birds at the feeder quickly finish

their sunflower seed afternoon snacks

and flutter off before they require

headlights to find their tree houses

in the growing gloom

my flickering candle on the window sill

reflects a second candle in the pane

as darkness descends silently

over the Shenandoah Valley

horizontal stretches of purple clouds

provide a background curtain

for bare branches silhouetted

against the indigo sky

lights flicker on here and there

like fireflies flitting about

out of season in the forested shadows

of my wrap-around Virginia hills

viewed through my picture window

where I sit alone at Evensong

this is my precious cloistered hour

my respite time of peace

here is my “place of quiet rest

near to the heart of God”

as the busy day recedes

temporal cares that consumed me

loosen their grip on my mind

the sun has concealed itself

dropping behind the distant hills

Day is dying in the West

heaven is touching earth with rest

wait and worship while the night

sets the evening lamps alight

through all the sky”

and I whisper in adoration 
“Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts

heaven and earth are full of Thee

heaven and earth are praising Thee

O Lord Most High”

in the quiet of this sacred daily time

my twilight of Sabbath rest.

(Rough draft unpolished by Leona 2/17)

Listen and worship with the a capella singers:
 "Day is Dying in the West"
(or google the title if the link doesn't work)

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