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
“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)