LIGHT FROM LIGHT: Professing the Creed for the Year of Faith

image

CREDO: Professing the Creed for the Year of Faith

 

LIGHT FROM LIGHT

by Jamie Gladly

 

I am hungry for light today. It’s been gray and dreary here in our corner of the Midwest, chilly and cloudy and grim. I’ve always craved light at this time of year; it’s almost a physical itch. In Perelandra C.S. Lewis describes Ransom’s long dark night in the underground caverns as “starvation”: in a place with no light and no food, he wants light even more desperately than sustenance. Is it universal to crave light amid darkness? It’s unwise to extrapolate from an n of 2 (especially when one is fictional and the other has Seasonal Affective Disorder), but I think it’s safe to say that a hunger for light at this time of year is commonplace.

Jesus says, “I am the light of the world”; the section of the Creed under consideration this week tells us he is “light from light.” Although other religions have conflated divine light and the electromagnetic phenomenon, in his beautiful prayer St. Thomas Aquinas shows us what it means that God is light. God who is light calls us out of our double darkness, the darkness of sin and the darkness of ignorance. God is light because he is truth and wisdom; he is light because he is good. Physical darkness presents no barrier, for “even the darkness is as light to him.”

Psalm 36 says “In your light we see light,” a line that used to sound strange to me. Why do we need God’s light to see light? These days I find it makes more sense. I think about how understanding begets understanding: the more you learn, the more you’re able to know. This is true for holiness, because freedom from larger sins equips a person to see her smaller sins more clearly, and for wisdom, because deeper knowledge prepares a student to know still more. Remember when the Dawn Treader sailed toward Aslan’s country? As they drank in the liquid light around them and soaked in the fierce sunlight above them, they became able to bear it better—to find it illuminating and not punishing.

The gospel of John says Jesus is the true light that gives light to every man. When we lived in Edinburgh I used to go and sit in front of a painting of the Epiphany—the “shining upon,” etymologically—in the National Gallery. I loved it because the infant Jesus was subtly but unmistakably emanating light. In the painting there are two truths about Divine Light that I have returned to again and again. First, it’s subtle—you have to look closely to see where the light is coming from. You can zip past the painting without noticing, if you choose, just as you can disregard the light of the world if you do not leave yourself time to gaze upon him. Second, it is the light that casts the shadows; it is only because of his light that we can perceive shadow. In the dark places of our lives, we can know that his light is real and warm, even if in the moment we know it only because we pine for it so. Cave-dwelling fish have no eyes because they spend their entire lives in darkness. We have eyes not only in our faces, but also, as St. Paul tells us, in our hearts. We are created to receive light.

Back in the fall I went for a run one Saturday morning, and as I ran I reflected on the third joyful mystery. I thought about that blessed baby, blinking sticky-eyed in the light of his first morning. I thought about the reality that we can see with human eyes—the bare trees and pale sky and sleepy houses around me—and I thought about the reality that is usually hidden from our physical eyes, the angels and archangels bowing down in wonder at the Incarnation. (I wondered briefly if Jesus must have been constructed along the lines of a four-eyed fish, able to see two worlds at once, and then I reminded myself that I never get very far when I try to figure out how hypostatic union might work.) Today I am thinking about the unmistakable presence of a brand new baby, on that first day when the promising bulge of pregnancy bursts forth to become an actual ex utero person. A person! Who knew? I’ve borne five children and it blew me away every time. “In him was life,” says St. John (and I think about the miracle of those first newborn breaths), “and this life was the light of men.” Because of his life we need not fear the darkness of sin or the darkness of the tomb: his life means we can live in light.

Were you afraid of the dark as a kid? I was, in a big way. What I remember about those nights is the way that light brought clarity and hope. (“Oh, that wasn’t a demon snake gliding across the floor to devour me entire—it was a pair of tights that I forgot to put in the hamper last night.”) I remember the way that flicking on the lamp dispelled my fears. We think of fear of the dark as a childhood folly, but I think plenty of adults are still living in its shadow. The good news is that the Light of Christ allows them—allows us—to live unafraid, in anticipation of the day when “they will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”

 


What are your thoughts? What else can we learn from “Light from Light”?

 

 

____________________________________________________________________

Jamie Gladly is a Midwestern mother of five who blogs at Light and Momentary.

 

Read all the entries in the Blog Series: Credo: Professing the Creed for the Year of Faith.

 

17 Responses to LIGHT FROM LIGHT: Professing the Creed for the Year of Faith

  1. Teresa December 29, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    Dear Melanie:
    Your due date snuck right up on me and so I had better get serious about some prayer time for you. It’s funny how you can feel so close to someone – an entire family! – that you have never met, but your sweet family has a place in my heart, that is for sure. How excited you must be to meet your dear daughter. I will pray the Divine Mercy chaplet for you on Monday and offer up special prayers at Mass on Sunday. May all the blessings of the Holy Family rain down on you and Dom and the kids during this time. Wish I could be there to lend a hand with the cleaning, but hope you can just let it go, sister. Love and hugs from Alabama smile

  2. Ellie December 30, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    Oh Melanie Melanie! I am so sorry you are still sick my dear! You are often in my thoughts, and I have been holding you and baby Lucia in my daily prayers. I will continue to do so of course!

  3. Jennifer G. Miller December 30, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    Praying, Melanie! And Merry Christmas!

  4. Jennifer G. Miller December 30, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    Me again. Just thinking again how the first Christmas was not all warm and cozy, but uncomfortable and uprooted again and again.

  5. Melanie Bettinelli December 30, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    Thanks so much for the prayers, everyone.

    I’m feeling better though not yet 100%. Last night was a bit better. Anthony spent most of the night in our bed and slept more than he has the last few nights. Much of the time he was kicking me in the belly or the kidneys; but I think I got a decent amount of sleep.

    We did make it to Mass this morning and Father gave me anointing afterward and promised to say tomorrow’s 9am Mass for me. I love our priests! Also, lots of ladies in the parish came up to tell me they’d be praying too. Oh and Lucia danced while I was being anointed. Sweet baby girl!

    I’m off to the hospital for pre-admissions testing. Then hopefully home to rest. Praying I feel good enough to have a real dinner tonight since I’ll have to be fasting from midnight on.

    Merry Christmas and Happy new year. What a great time to have a baby between the Feasts of the Holy Family and of the Mother of God. And on the feast of St Sylvester, the pope who presided over the Nicean Council and the writing of the Creed!

  6. Margaret December 30, 2012 at 1:50 am #

    I’ll be praying for you at morning Mass on Monday.  God hold you and Lucia especially close through the delivery and afterward.  You now are on the way to having a seriously good-sized Catholic family.  Way to wow the secular world!

  7. Kira December 30, 2012 at 3:40 am #

    I love your blog and will be praying for you tomorrow!  God bless!

  8. Melanie Bettinelli December 30, 2012 at 4:30 am #

    Change of plans.

    I went to the hospital for my pre-op testing and they rescheduled my surgery to Thursday afternoon at 2 pm. So begins more waiting. But hopefully I will feel much better by then. So much for my 2012 New Year’s Eve baby. I had grown very used to that idea. I hate last minute changes. But I’m a bit relieved not to be facing surgery while still recovering from this stomach thing.

  9. Nicole B December 30, 2012 at 5:55 am #

    Definitely praying for you these next few days in a particular way!!  Healing, Holy Energy, and Peace!

  10. Mary December 29, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    Prayers for you, Melanie! Just think, Lucia will always have the most fabulous day to celebrate her birthday! Fireworks! Champagne! When she’s older, of course! (Forgive my feeble attempts to make you smile.)

  11. Jennifer December 29, 2012 at 7:58 am #

    Oh God bless you, Melanie.  I’m so sorry you are so sick and worried right now.  I’m sure this is not how you wanted these last few days to go.  I’ll be praying for you over the next few days and I can’t wait to see your sweet new baby.

  12. Becky D December 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    Melanie

    Praying !!!!! For Thursday

  13. Phoebe December 31, 2012 at 5:36 am #

    How did you like Cryptonomicon? I found it too sexually crude to get through. Should I soldier on? Is it worth it?

  14. Melanie Bettinelli December 31, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    Phoebe,

    The sex was crude and gratuitous all the way through to the end; but I’m able to bracket it off from the rest of the story and that I found enjoyable. I like the way Stephenson is able to orchestrate the various story lines and characters and to bring them all together. And I like all the codes and mathematics and technical geekyness. If you found it too distracting, then I doubt you’ll enjoy soldiering on. On the whole I found the novel’s questions and scope less compelling than Anathem or The Diamond Age, though I’m leaping on into the Baroque Cycle, which is a sort of prequel to Cryptonomicon. I guess I’m on a real Stephenson kick right now.

  15. Phoebe December 31, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    Are his other books that bad in terms of the sexual content? My books don’t have to be PG or milder, I just felt that Cryptonomicon was too much. Sometimes I can ignore that sort of thing and sometimes I can’t. I was in a very reactive place at the time I tried to read it. Might be better now. Or should I read something else by him?

    (Here’s hoping I’m a Week 39 distraction grin

  16. Melanie Bettinelli December 31, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    Hmm. Anathem was pretty tame. Although the sort of monasticism that Stephenson creates isn’t strictly celibate, sexual relationships are limited. And very much de-emphasized in the book.

    The Diamond Age has some pretty graphic scenes, though I think it feels more integral to the plot. I don’t want to give anything away, but while I think the descriptions are maybe over the top, it feels more purposeful.

    I have to say I didn’t really notice it as being gratuitous in Cryptonomicon except in one place near the end where I just felt it was entirely over the top. I do think Stephenson is making a sort of point with the sex and relationships, even if the actual descriptions are pushing the envelope being much more graphic than is strictly necessary, I don’t have a problem with the ways in which sex is incorporated into the plot. I don’t know how far you got in the book; but several of the characters take very seriously that the consequence of sex is babies, which is sadly a perspective that many people in contemporary western society have completely lost sight of. And there are some interesting insights into the value of sexual continence from a secularist perspective.

    And I do think the novel treats Catholicism with respect and seriousness, not making it into a caricature.

  17. Phoebe December 31, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    I don’t remember how far along I was. I think I might give it another try.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes