I’m feeling particularly proud tonight, because when I Googled the word “Chiaroscuro” to see how it was spelled, I discovered I already had it right. And to make it even better, I actually remembered what it means. But don’t worry if you can’t pronounce it. Even though I can, I can’t decipher the phonetic spelling in the dictionary, which means I don’t know how to communicate it to you. But to tell you the truth, it really doesn’t matter if you can say it. All that matters is that you now have the most basic knowledge of what it is — it’s an Italian word that means light-dark. It’s about strong contrasts between light and dark, about light being used to convey volume or to show the modeling of a form. Some of the old masters, like Caravaggio, are credited with using this technique, but it has applications in photography, drawing, and other media throughout history. In traditional chiaroscuro images, most of the canvas is black, and one source of light creates stark contrast and defines the objects in the composition.
Whether or not you’ve ever seen this before (or learned about it in art history class), I’m sure you’ve noticed that all through the Bible, we read about light. About God’s light. About how He is light, and how He shines His light into one situation after another.
About how His light cannot be extinguished.
I’ve always been a little afraid of the dark. I want to see what’s there, to see if what is supposed to be there is and what isn’t, isn’t. When we moved into the house we live in now, I was amazed at how bright it is even in the middle of the night. We had our electricity updated, and they put little power-indicator lights in all the outlets. That’s all it is. One tiny little green light, about 1/8” in size. And when all the other lights are out, that little thing lights up the whole room.
Because here’s the thing. When light shines, there ceases to be darkness. When light shines, we see the contrast between the light and the darkness. When light shines, it shapes, forms, and models for us the image we see. It defines it. The darkness is shaped by light. Even when all other things are dark, if the light illuminates, even slightly, just one thing, our eyes are drawn to it. It becomes our focus.
And, really, that’s all it takes — a little bit of light. We only need a little bit of God’s wisdom to start to see clearly. A little bit of hope to push out despair. A little bit of love to combat hate. A little bit of peace to calm the storm. A little bit of strength to overcome our weakness. A little bit of divine illumination to push back the darkness and sharpen our focus. To begin to make out the shapes. To see what is right there in front of us.
Because even in our darkest hour, the tiniest bit of God’s light goes a long, long way.