Arthur Middleton on Lighten our darkness
God is Light
Some years ago in the Mendip caves, all the lights went out and left us in total darkness. Nobody could pick up any light within that darkness, which was also an experience of blindness, for darkness and blindness become one and the same experience when there is no light. The organ of vision is rendered useless. The fear and horror of everyone’s life is that they might be plunged into darkness and blindness, physical, mental or spiritual. For deep within every human soul is a yearning for light.
In that cave there were two ways in which I could have allowed light to guide me through the darkness. First, by providing my own light with a torch. This light would have been in my control and therefore limited by my own inadequate knowledge of the caves and darkness. Furthermore, I would have pointed it, only into the places where I wanted it to shine and I would have followed it, only into the places where I wanted it to go. A second way, was to have my path lit up by a light that was provided and beyond my control. Such light would lead me by lighting up for me that total darkness, but it would also give me total vision. This light would invite my submission and total response. Unconditional response to this light was the secret, the clue to find my way through the darkness.
Epiphany is about light. The Magi followed the star and submitted themselves to its guiding light. These astrologers taught that the Lord of the universe is eternal light and that the soul of man needs light. The soul needs a light external to itself as well as a light within the soul. It needs the everlasting light from outside itself; otherwise the soul itself is in darkness. The magi submitted to that light and found a king in the form of a child, a King not of man’s making but of God’s making. The secret of his Kingship was in his obedience, not to his own will, but to the will of him who sent him. His commands are the eternal laws of humanity to which he submitted. This is the ‘ light of men’. Only by obedience to these laws can we find fulfilling life, that for which God made us, a Light in the darkness.
Bishop Theodoret in the fifth century wrote:
John writes: ‘God is light and in him is no darkness at all.’ [1 John 1:5] Although he is speaking of light, the words are obscure. The sun is also light, the moon is also light, a lamp is also light. There must be in God something very greatly superior to these lights in grandeur, in brightness, in quality.
Just as God is superior to his creation, as an author is superior to his work, as Wisdom is superior to any object made with wisdom, so this Light ought to surpass all the other lights.
Perhaps we shall approach it if we do all we can to be illuminated by it. The Light does not humble us if we humble ourselves.
So the Epiphany hymn begins:
The race that long in darkness pined
Have seen a glorious light;
And the hymn As with gladness men of old ends with the verse:
In the heavenly country bright
Need they no created light;
Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown,
Thou its Sun which goes not down:
There for ever may we sing
Alleluyas to our King.
Following that Light
If we follow that light that is beyond our own control, we will never walk in darkness or blindness. In baptism ‘the light which is the life of men’, embraced us. For generations it has been their guiding star that has never let them down though they may at times have let him down. This submission to the Light is no passing sentimental religion. It is embedded in the reality of a sacramental life. For this Light is the Word we obey and our earthly pilgrimage is sustained by the angel’s food of Eucharistic Bread that touches every part of our lives.
As the Eye Needs Light
To see visible objects
we need the eyes of the body.
To understand intelligible truths
we need the eyes of the mind.
To have the vision of divine things
we cannot do without faith.
What the eye is for the body,
faith is for reason.
To be more precise;
the eye needs the light
which puts it in contact
with visible things;
reason needs faith
to show it divine things.
(Theodoret The Cure of Pagan Diseases, i, 78)