Thursday, December 08, 2016

Column: Advent 2: O nata lux

I wrote the first draft of this while listening to Morten Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna, which includes a setting of the traditional hymn for the Tranfiguration, O nata lux, but which seemed as appropriate for Advent. It is, to quote a friend, an ineffable piece of music. You can listen here and if your week is anything like mine, do!

I recalled the Our Father in so many languages on the wall at Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I thought, too, of the mosque I visited in Abu Dhabi years ago where one gold splashed and white wall was covered with words, ninety-nine attributes of God:  the All Merciful, the Truth, the Maker of all things.  Peace.

A column for the first week of Advent which appeared at CatholicPhilly (along with some suggested materials for additional reflection) on 7 December 2016.

What came to be
through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it. — John 1:3b-5

“And by light you mean photons, right?” asks the student in the first row. “Yes, I do.” At least in this context. There is always a bit of irony in these last classes of the semester. I’m lecturing about light as the winter darkness grows deeper. Or maybe not.

As I packed up to return to my office, the lines from the Prologue to St. John’s Gospel ran through my head, “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” Chemists see light as active. It doesn’t just illuminate, driving away the darkness, it can fundamentally change what it touches. One molecule becomes another. Yet more wonderfully, once the light has soaked in, it can shine forth again, in new ways and new directions.

The Light has shone in the darkness, and we are fundamentally changed. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God. What’s more, we are called to be beacons of light: You are the light of the world.

We have been kindled, we hear in St. Matthew’s Gospel, not to be hidden under a bowl, or within the walls of our parish churches, but to shine forth, banishing the darkness around us.

Reflecting on these lines from John in his “City of God,” St. Augustine tells of St. Simplician, a late fourth century bishop of Milan, who recalled a pagan scholar once told him that the opening lines to John’s Gospel “should be written in letters of gold and hung up in all the churches in the most conspicuous place.” This is where our faith begins. In the darkness, yearning for light, life and God to come among us.

As Advent moves more deeply into the darkness, I imagine John’s words, written in letters of gold, shimmering on the walls of churches everywhere. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory … full of grace and truth.

I look for the Light dwelling among us, praying that it might change me; that I, too, might be aflame with the Word, filled with grace.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. I needed it. All light and blessings....