God is ever patient, spying the moment when we present ourselves with broken and contrite hearts, at which point he performs a most astounding miracle. He liquefies light, gathers it up, as if in a cistern, and pours it into our open hearts. The collect appointed for this day calls this “the new light of your incarnate word.”
Thus we imagine the birth of Christ transferred to the inner depth of our hearts by which the eternal Son of God, by adoption and grace, makes us each sons and daughters of the living God. We participate in the life of Christ and so share in the intimacy which Christ has with the Father. As St. Paul states, “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!'” Or, as we hear in St. John ‘s prologue, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”
Born of God, we each take on a different aspect, a new visage. In Christ we receive, John says, “from his fullness, grace upon grace.” On the one hand, this is deeply hidden, stored away in the secrecy of the human heart. And yet, employing the metaphor “light,” John reminds us that this new life is not merely private.
“This is the true light that enlightens everyone.” It burns from within and shines out. The prophet Isaiah describes this transfiguration as a moment of beauty and celebration: “The Lord has clothed me with garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. … You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.”
The collect appointed for this day takes a significant moral step, asking that this light shine forth in good works. Yes, let us love mercy, seek justice, and walk humbly before our God.
But too often we move without preparation, without forethought, impetuously, causing damage by our fumbling deeds. We might recall that Jesus told his disciples to go to Jerusalem and remain there until the Spirit had come upon them.
So, for a few moments at least, we are invited to do nothing. In this way our minds may focus on a motivating image. The light in us shines out. But also, recalling that God “pours out the light of the incarnate word,” we imagine a liquid light coursing through our veins, entering every fiber of our being. The Latin collect from which our English translation was made says, “We are bedewed / dripping with the light of your incarnate word.” God pours out this inexhaustible beauty, grace upon grace, and we stand drenched in it.
Now we are better prepared to love our neighbors as ourselves. Now we may beseech God to let the light that has flashed in our hearts shine out in all good works.
Look It Up
Read Isa. 61:10-62:3. Let your eyes linger over words that suggest beauty.
Think About It
Archbishop William Temple reminds us that Jesus is “the Good Shepherd, the beautiful one.” That beauty is in you, and goes forth from you.