Into the Darkest Hour

An Advent/Christmas poem by Madeleine L'Engle
SSATB Chorus and Organ  |  7'45"

Music at St. David's · Into The Darkest Hour - Michael Rickelton

About the work

Madeleine L'Engle was an American writer best known for young-adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels: A Wind in the Door, National Book Award-winning A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. Her works reflect both her Christian faith and her strong interest in modern science. This is most evident in her lesser-known poetry. Although a relevant and powerful Advent/Christmas text celebrating the infant Jesus, "Into the Darkest Hour" reflects significant political, social, and cultural concerns. Composed in the late summer of 2016 amidst a tumultuous American presidential election, L’Engle’s words seemed not only fitting for the coming Advent season, but an important representation of what many Americans were experiencing, no matter their individual political views. The piece was revised in the fall of 2023, with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and war in Ukraine as its backdrop. The work unfolds mirroring the organization of L’Engle’s text – alternating between political commentary and the repose of the Advent season. The work concludes with the arrival of the infant in a lulling manger offering a hopeful resolution to L’Engle’s words “when all things fall apart”.

Text: Madeleine L'Engle, 1918-2007

It was a time like this,
War & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss–
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.

It was time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight–
and yet the Prince of bliss
came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.

And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.

"Into the Darkest Hour" by Madelieine L'Engle. From Wintersong: Christmas Readings by Madeleine L'Engle & Luci Shaw
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