The New World of Light And Some Bits of Enlightenment and Catholic Wisdom

Fr. Edlefsen's Sunday Column
The New World Of Light

“In every age there come forth things that are new and have no foretelling, for they do not proceed from the past.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion)

“After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

The word “epiphany” means “a revelation of light.”  A supernatural “ah-ha” moment.  An epiphany illuminates a person with divine insight.  It transforms the mind with a fresh new outlook, banishing ignorance, bringing hope and courage.  An epiphany is experienced in wonder and transcendence.  Sins and troubles melt in an immense sea of Mercy.  One is converted from darkness and sin to light and goodness.  Love blossoms.  Suffering seems a small toll to pay on the highway to Heaven.

The true Enlightenment was not a 17th-18th century intellectual movement, as high school textbooks (and other sources of fiction) would have you believe.  The real Enlightenment began 2000 years ago when “the Light came into the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:5).  Light came when God revealed his Face in the humble and human weakness of a Child.  This was something new and fresh.  Its foretelling through the Prophets is only known in retrospect.  They were not understood because what they foretold had no basis in the past.  The prophet’s foresight came from somewhere else — from a Transcendent Realm of Light that not even the prophet himself understood.  That’s why prophets were persecuted.  All things new come from Jesus “who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16).  Christ himself testified to this more than 30 years after his birth.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)

So Jesus said to them, "For a little while longer the Light is among you.  Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.” (John 12:35)

"While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” (John 19:5)

The “light of life” is found in humility.  Humility?  Humility is not — by any means! — belittling.  To say so would be prideful.  Christian humility ennobles.  Look at the Child’s Face.  There’s your Answer.  Through his humility, Jesus reveals the Father.  This is God’s answer to our pride and sins.  Jesus gives no complicated explanations or enlightenment theories.  No yoga, no science, no politics, no Gnosticism (look it up), no secret knowledge, no new diets, no “finding one’s self.”  Nothing weird.  The Child says, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).  The Child teaches the arts of mercy, innocence, purity and humility.  This is the real “finding of one’s self” in “losing one’s self.”  “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).  The Child breaks down our “stony hearts,” whereby we lose ourselves, and He gives us “natural hearts” of flesh whereby we find ourselves.

"And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them.  And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11: 19)

“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Feast of Light!

From an Epiphany Homily by Pope Benedict XVI

The Epiphany is a feast of light.  “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).  With these words of the prophet Isaiah, the Church describes the content of the feast.  He who is the true light, and by whom we too are made to be light, has indeed come into the world.  He gives us the power to become children of God (John 1:9,12).  The journey of the wise men from the East is, for the liturgy, just the beginning of a great procession that continues throughout history.  With the Magi, humanity’s pilgrimage to Jesus Christ begins – to the God who was born in a stable, who died on the Cross and who, having risen from the dead, remains with us always, until the consummation of the world (Matthew 28:20).  The Church reads this account from Matthew’s Gospel alongside the vision of the prophet Isaiah that we heard in the first reading: the journey of these men is just the beginning.  Before them came the shepherds – simple souls, who dwelt closer to the God who became a child, and could more easily “go over” to him (Luke 2:15) and recognize him as Lord.  But now the wise of this world are also coming.  Great and small, kings and slaves, men of all cultures and all peoples are coming.  The men from the East are the first, followed by many more throughout the centuries.  After the great vision of Isaiah, the reading from the Letter to the Ephesians expresses the same idea in sober and simple terms: the Gentiles share the same heritage (Ephesians 3:6).  Psalm 2 puts it like this: “I shall bequeath you the nations, put the ends of the earth in your possession.”

The wise men from the East lead the way.  They open up the path of the Gentiles to Christ. … We may well look to these figures, the first Gentiles to find the pathway to Christ … What kind of people were they?  The experts tell us that they belonged to the great astronomical tradition that had developed in Mesopotamia over the centuries and continued to flourish.  But this information of itself is not enough.  No doubt there were many astronomers in ancient Babylon, but only these few set off to follow the star that they recognized as the star of the promise, pointing them along the path towards the true King and Savior.  They were, as we might say, men of science, but not simply in the sense that they were searching for a wide range of knowledge: they wanted something more.  They wanted to understand what being human is all about.  They had doubtless heard of the prophecy of the Gentile prophet Balaam: “A star shall come forth out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17).  They explored this promise.  They were men with restless hearts, not satisfied with the superficial and the ordinary.  They were men in search of the promise, in search of God.  And they were watchful men, capable of reading God’s signs, his soft and penetrating language.  But they were also courageous, yet humble: we can imagine them having to endure a certain amount of mockery for setting off to find the King of the Jews, at the cost of so much effort.  For them it mattered little what this or that person, what even influential and clever people thought and said about them.  For them it was a question of truth itself, not human opinion.  Hence they took upon themselves the sacrifices and the effort of a long and uncertain journey.  Their humble courage was what enabled them to bend down before the child of poor people and to recognize in him the promised King, the one they had set out, on both their outward and their inward journey, to seek and to know.

The restless heart of which we spoke earlier, echoing Saint Augustine, is the heart that is ultimately satisfied with nothing less than God, and in this way becomes a loving heart.  Our heart is restless for God and remains so, even if every effort is made today, by means of most effective anaesthetizing methods, to deliver people from this unrest.  But not only are we restless for God: God’s heart is restless for us.  God is waiting for us.  He is looking for us.  He knows no rest either, until he finds us.  God’s heart is restless, and that is why he set out on the path towards us – to Bethlehem, to Calvary, from Jerusalem to Galilee and on to the very ends of the earth.  God is restless for us, he looks out for people willing to “catch” his unrest, his passion for us, people who carry within them the searching of their own hearts and at the same time open themselves to be touched by God’s search for us.  Dear friends, this was the task of the Apostles: to receive God’s unrest for man and then to bring God himself to man.

From the Rule of St. Benedict

Let us therefore now at length rise up as the Scripture incites us when it says: “Now is the hour for us to arise from sleep.”  And with our eyes open to the divine light, let us with astonished ears listen to the admonition of God’s voice daily crying out and saying: “Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”  And again: “He who has the hearing ear, let him hear what the Spirit announces to the churches.”  And what does the Spirit say?  “Come, children, listen to me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.  Run while ye have the light of life, that the shades of death envelop you not.”

Fr. Frederick Edlefsen, Pastor