Saturday, January 2, 2010

Lights and Ladders

(Epiphany)

“Rise up in splendor,” comes the call from the prophet Isaiah, “Your light has come…the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” Though our world may seem at times to be in darkness and gloom, we rejoice today in the revelation of Christ, the true Light.

The theme of light pervades the whole Christmas season. Lights are one of the primary ways we decorate in celebration of the Lord’s Nativity, as we see here in church and in our neighborhoods. This theme begins with the gospel proclamation of the Mass of Christmas Day, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:9) For us who live in the northern hemisphere, the cycle of the seasons reinforces our spiritual recollection; from now on the daylight will increase each day until we arrive at the Nativity of John the Baptist on the other side of the astronomical year when we celebrate the birth of him who “must decrease.”

On this feast of the Epiphany we are given the image of the magi following the star to the infant Jesus. They are models for our imitation. The magi show us that the created world of nature, properly interpreted, leads us to Jesus Christ. As they followed the star to the newborn Jesus, so we too can follow the beauty and light of creation to the presence of God among us. In some ways, this is something that we as modern people have forgotten. Sometimes our theism, in practical terms at least, is of the type that separates God from nature; God is in charge of spiritual stuff, while we have science to explain the natural world. This is the classic “God of the gaps” theology. As Christians, we must resist this kind of thinking. Why? Because we believe that God created the world through His Word: ‘God said…and so it happened’ goes the refrain of the first biblical account of the creation. What we celebrate at Christmas is that this same Word of God becomes flesh in the human person Jesus Christ. Putting these two articles of faith together we realize that the created world should speak of the Christ through Whom it was created, and that Jesus Christ Himself should be the interpretive key to understanding the created world.

The truth is that we are all aware of this in our day to day lives. When we encounter beauty or mystery in the natural world, whether in the creation around us or especially in our experience of ourselves through these wonderful and mysterious minds we have, we know that this speaks to the goodness, beauty, and immensity of our Creator. The great theologian of the Franciscan Order, St. Bonaventure, writes about this in his famous spiritual treatise, The Journey of the Soul into God. St. Bonaventure teaches that we can see the whole created universe as a scala ad ascendendum in Deum, a ladder or stairway by which we might ascend into the contemplation of God. (I:2)

This is the spiritual work, privilege, and joy that the magi put before us today. Let us notice and contemplate the natural light of creation, the beauty and mystery of everything God has made through his only-begotten Word. Let us follow these lights and contemplations to the Light Itself, Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

4narnia said...

happy feast of the Epiphany, Fr. C! thank you for sharing this great homily. i'm inspired by your example of St. Bonaventure's "ladder or stairway by which we might ascend into the contemplation of God." you're right about the Magi being a good example and role model for us all. they followed the light of a star to Jesus, the Light of the world and they offered Him their very best treasures. that's what we're all called to do. if we remain open to the Holy Spirit, we are given that same guiding star as the Magi through the many graces and blessings in our daily life as we journey to Jesus, our Light. we are called to give of ourselves, totally, as the Magi did, by giving of our time, talent and treasure. PEACE! ~tara t~