True to her statement at the beginning of Learning to Walk In the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor follows the lunar cycle through the course of her book, walking us through each phase of darkness. And so we find ourselves nearing the end, turning the page to chapter 9, and a full moon.
Chapter 9, titled Our Lady of the Underground, is the final chapter of the book, and on the first page we find ourselves being led by Taylor, to contemplate our relationship with the moon. Taylor admits that, although she has woken to watch many suns rise over the years, she has never taken time to experience a moonrise. And so, she makes plans to go and watch the moon rise for the first time in her memory. Naturally, the experience is used by Taylor to allude to a deeper spiritual meaning, and so she starts her explanation by pointing out the effect that observing the moon has on our understanding of our role in the universe. There is nothing else like it, no comparison, to use to explain the wonder of the moon, and how it can remind you of your place. It is a creation of God, full of glory and splendor that is incomparable to anything our minds can imagine, and yet, we can only see it when the sun is absent. This beautiful ornament in the sky, guide, and guardian is only visible to us when it is dark. The moon, a beautiful gift, is too often missed because we are just too busy, and too engulfed by light, to take a step back and see what the darkness has to offer us. Taylor equates the moon, and it’s phases, to a perfect symbol of our relationship with God, waxing and waning, going in cycles, and always there even when it cannot be seen.
The moon leads us, with Taylor; to Notre Dame de Chartres the topic drifts to Mary. Taylor approaches Mary by connecting herself, Mary, and the rest of cis women to the lunar cycle that shapes their lives. With this Taylor admits that she feels sometimes that Mary understands her more that Jesus does, because this common thread unites them. As Taylor walks us through Chartres Cathedral, she further elaborates on her relationship with Mary, and the things Mary has led her to understanding. Our Lady of the Underground resides in the basement of Chartres Cathedral, and is where Taylor ends up in her exploration.
As she concludes her final chapter, Taylor notes that several lessons she has taken away from her relationship with the Mary at Chartres, or The Lady of the Underground. Like a wise mother, Mary teaches us that it is darkness that often calls us to slow down, and take smaller, more intentional steps. Also, in the darkness we find ourselves needing to confront fears that don’t present in the light of day, and what Mary teaches us is that perhaps the darkness is what we need to fully acknowledge those struggles, and finally work our way through understanding them.
It is only in finding God in the dark, that we will ever be able to complete our experience in our relationship with The Master of the Universe. We have been taught the methods of walking in the dark, and now it is time to try it on our own feet. Let us go in peace, awareness, and confidence, setting out to find what lies for us just beyond the light.