6 Easter, May 26
The composer John Cage completed his talk at the Detroit Institute of Arts. It was, predictably, strange but interesting. The lights went up, questions were invited, and a long silence rested over the hall. Finally, a woman stood and said this: “Yes, but what about the loneliness?” Cage waited, obviously moved by the question, though it had nothing to do with his address. With real empathy he remarked, “Yes, I know. But then there are so many things.” There are many forms of loneliness, and a thing will never substitute for a flesh-and-blood person. Still, a thing is never merely a thing in a world radiant with sacramental power.
“O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding” (Collect for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, 1979 BCP, p. 225). To love God most deeply in all things is, in a sense, to forget the conscious thought of him. To love God above all things is to ascend beyond understand and desire into pure waiting and quiet rest. This ascent is not, however, an escape from the things of life, the daily round, the common task, the caretaking and heartbreaking work of love, or a repudiation of what is good and joyful and uplifting. God is on the ground. God speaks in duty and obligation, in love and promise, in all the little things of human life and nature.
God is light and everything he touches is suffused with inner light. Think first about your flesh and the clothing you wear. According to St. Leo the Great, the Transfiguration laid the foundation of the Church’s hope for her transformation. “The Lord displays His glory, therefore, before chosen witnesses and invests that bodily shape which he shares with others with such splendor, that his face was like the sun’s brightness and his garments equaled the whiteness of snow.” His face and his garments suggest our own.
“The foundation was laid for the Holy Church’s hope, that the whole body of Christ might realize the character of the change which it would have to receive, and that the members might promise themselves a share in that honor which had already shone forth in the head” (Sermon 51:3-4). Does the skin of your face shine? Do your garments glisten?
Behold a shining new world. “And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need or sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev. 21:10, 22-23). “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (Rev. 21:24). The nations’ glory and honor find their highest achievement and consummation in the shining glory of God. We hold this hope as if it is already present.
“May God be gracious to us and bless us, and make his face to shine upon us” (Ps. 67:1). It is happening all the time. In so many things, so many joys, so many sorrows, so many moments of contemplation, God is a lamp upon our path.
What do you do? I walk and read, write and pray, cook and clean, hike and wonder, and dance. I have been dancing with my daughter for 32 years. She shows a dance move and says, “Look, Daddy.” I say, “I see you.” I see a holy city of shining lights.
Look It Up
Read Psalm 67:1.
Think About It
Countenance is presence.