Fitting these words on our banner (above) on the back of St. Vincent took some clever design work. For a sign meant to be read while waiting at stoplight 20 yards away, 13 words might as well be a James Joyce tome.
We did it however (Thanks, Tom Hyatt!), because at this moment in time we really want to proclaim these words from the Gospel of John to ourselves and to all. The idea for this banner grew out of conversations among parishioners about the direction of the country, the needs in our city and more. The emotions expressed in this dialogue have been, at times, dark—parishioners speak and write of feeling uncertainty, despair and anger and frustration. Many are stepping out in their faith, letting these powerfully emotions serve as energy for change. To be sure, our faith tells us even amidst the brokenness of our world:
“..the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.”
—John 1:5 NAB
In an effort to wordsmith this into a limited space, we looked at several Scripture translations. The distinctions among these sparked conversation about the meaning (possibly some comfort) and perhaps a sense of purpose that people sitting in traffic might take from the banner.
In different translations, completely different verbs, not even synonymous, are used. Tenses are tweaked—has, did, can, shall all give a different shade of meaning. Never and not are swapped. Each combination creates subtle variations in meaning and mood. The darkness “has never put it out,” reads one. And another: “the darkness can never extinguish it.”
One that stood out was “…and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (NASB) Darkness could not comprehend light. Think about that! It felt right for this moment. However, we had doubts that anyone would comprehend our banner from down in the street with that phrasing, so we stuck with this more common translation. From the Church and from the street, we are invited to live and pray into the light together.