I am a lover of icons, relics, and the incorruptibles. For all the work done on the Shroud of Turin researchers aren’t completely sure of many things, but they are sure of one thing: the image on the cloth was made in a way that we do not know how to duplicate even with all of our modern technology. The image was burned onto the very tip of each individual fiber in a way that only a monumental explosion of light (radiation), not fire, could have created. It had nothing to do with paint or Xerox! For me, the tangible treasures of our Church give us an illumination into past struggle and history that we can’t get any other way. They shed light on mysteries that we have only heard about.
In the Church, the powerful image of light appears over and over again, in the scripture, in the writings of our saints and believers and in the miracles which are recounted by many cultures and peoples. Light shows up in the creation of the world, Moses first meeting with God in the bush, the trek of the Israelites through the dessert, the Nativity, the conversion of the murderous Saul, the Transfiguration and the Resurrection, not to mention countless other incidents in the history and track of our faith. So we have gotten a continuous set of models which show us that a life of faith revolves around experiencing moments which blind us with their brilliance but leave us able to see more than we were able to at the beginning.
Did you ever wake from a stuporous sleep only to be assaulted by a brilliantly sunny window? Not pleasant is it? Sometimes light can be a painful experience. Sometimes it is simply more confortable to turn aside and ignore the light. Light gets your attention whether you want it to or not. You can’t look away. So, what are the qualities of light? Light exposes, light clarifies, light stimulates, light unmasks, light purifies, light heals light illumines. These are all qualities which enable a person to be stripped of all the things that are hidden under wraps and are festering in the darkness. In the purview of human experience all the knowledge we could ever gain by scholarship or experience is limited simply by who we are. No matter what level of intelligence that you have been gifted with, no one knows everything. We have seen the truth of this reality especially in the engineering and medical sectors. Did you know that from the moment we dammed the Colorado River (begun in 1922) entire species began and continue to die out because of the damn? How many medications have been recalled because originators who deemed them perfectly beneficial had no clue about the long term side effects? People died! Can you say: Ozone or DDT? Nobody knows everything, except for God, of course.
As limited beings, we desperately need “The Light”. When we assume that we are the totally competent purveyors and implementers of creativity and invention we wind up creating disasters and consequences that we never imagined could even exist. Rather, “We should not scrutinize ourselves too closely but try to live simply, bravely and joyously beneath the gaze of God and for him … Human knowledge becomes more delicate and more interesting to the extent that the Light that comes from the Infinite penetrates it. … The world and history are transformed when one discerns the Energy that guides them in unknown ways to an unknown end.” (Elisabeth Leseur † 1914, a French laywoman whose cause for canonization is currently underway) We cannot function in a balanced manner without the light. That is why we are so drawn to light and darkness is so unsettling. When we acknowledge our own darkness and the fact that we can’t function without the light that is the beginning of the total transformation that light can bring.
So then, light is a matter of life and death. It’s prominence of place in the scriptures shows us that. On the planet, light is literally the engine that gives life. If the sun died tomorrow, everything else would perish within months. The artificial light we have created might illumine for a while, but the spectrum which mobilizes green plants to actually trap the light and store it as food would be gone. Sun to plants to animals to humans; this biological miracle fuels all life on the planet. Even if you never eat a single green, the energy in the meat and/or carbohydrates that you consume is stored sunlight which originally came from some plant. Light is life not only spiritually, but physically as well.
Sometimes we are afraid of the light because of the demands it makes on us. Remember Saul who was first blinded by the light only to go on to a new life in which his vision was miraculously changed. If we are truly children of the light there are things that we must own up to. Once you have experienced the light, there is no turning back, no deciding that being fully exposed and visible all of the time is too hard. We who believe are the ones who have the responsibility of “bringing the light” to the world. That’s what believing is all about. We do not have the luxury of hanging back when it gets hard or we become aware that we are the target because we are so illuminated. Living in the light, though, gives grace and joy that you can’t get any other way. Showing people the light is a privilege. Introducing them to the face of the one who is light is a divine calling and it’s in our hands. “We want to remember one thing alone: there is a Face, a Face within [every one of us] engraved in our heart and which is our only treasure. It is on this Face that our life must converge. It is to this Face that we must [always] go back. It is by hiding ourselves in the light of this Face that we will reach this vast grandeur to which we are called and which is, precisely, through the sinews of our heart as through all the powers of our soul, to let shine this Face of the eternal Love for which the whole earth yearns.” ( Father Maurice Zundel † 1975, Swiss mystic poet and author) Don’t be afraid to stand in the light it’s your true joy!
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Copyright © 2010, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved
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