DECEMBER 14, 2011- SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS- ISAIAH 45:6-8,18, 21-25

 

I AM THE LORD, THERE IS NO OTHER. I FORM THE LIGHT, AND CREATE THE DARKNESS. These words of Israelís greatest prophet have always echoed through the centuries and evoke lively feeling and stir those given to reflection to lively thought. In our own times they are heard with a fresh intensity of awareness. Those who follow advances in knowledge of the created world that science has been revealing are now more sensitive to the nature of the light that Isaiah, like the author of Genesis, mentions first in recounting the work of creation. Just last month a report on the use of the powerful laser in Austin, Texas explains how its focused light beam can serve to create a molecular latticework that so transforms the material affected that at the proper temperature it conducts electricity without any resistance. In this way light can be so regulated as to make matter perform with greatly enhanced efficiency, by greatly reducing energy loss in transmission. Light is now known to be a carrier of energy that can be harnessed in a wider variety of ways useful to humanity than was known until 1960 when the first laser was invented and its operation demonstrated.

 

Such developments extend the potential to recognize in nature in more specific detail the power, intelligence, beauty, and Providence of the Creator present in nature. Already in the fourth century Evagrius Ponticus explored further the line of thought that led Isaiah to come to a fuller awareness of Godís creative power and the great breadth of its application to our world. This insight that he preached was centuries earlier than the account of creation on the first page of Genesis. The inspired author of Genesis had, like Isaiah after him, grasped the radical significance of light, so that the first act of God is to call light into existence. ďAnd God said ĎLet there be lightí And there was light.Ē Even before sun or moon, were formed, light existed in a free state. He understood this seemingly paradoxical fact that has been confirmed and explained by astronomers in modern times.

 

Isaiah in todayís reading, not only presents God as proclaiming that light is His creation; he also is the creator of darkness. ďI FORM THE LIGHT, AND CREATE THE DARKNESS.Ē The fact is that nothing exists of itself, not even the darkness of empty space; that too is Godís creation. Only God himself is eternal and essentially absolute, without beginning, or end, or limit. That darkness as well as light is subject to Godís action and Providence is a highly appropriate truth to bring to our attention at this liturgy today when we commemorate the holy and highly articulate Carmelite mystic and theologian, Saint John of the Cross. In his poetry, and in the prose works that commented on its spiritual and theological meaning, he sets forth in impressive imagery that he then explains in extensive detail in works of prose, the interplay of light and darkness that characterizes the life of those who draw near to God in the depths of the inner self. That in the physical cosmos the darkness far exceeds the light is now accepted as established fact. The entire matter of this material world that is subject to our sight and other senses is only some 5% of the cosmos. 22 % is dark energy and 73% is dark matter. Just as God has created the physical light He is also the Creator of the preponderant physical darkness that science can know only indirectly, through certain of its effects on visible matter. So the statement that Isaiah makes concerning the creation of darkness takes on fresh meaning in ourtimes now that darkness is not at all a negative concept but is rather a mysterious dimension of this cosmos that we can know directly only in part.

 

These facts make the language of light and darkness employed by John of the Cross quite timely for us in various ways. For one thing, this way of understanding the world we inhabit reveals that for our human condition not only is light essential but so also is darkness. The Carmelite mystic spoke of Godís more intense activity in our inner life as being a raio de tiniebla. (ray of darkness) that is, a source of a light too pure and too intensely packed with information giving knowledge of God in Himself for any human person to visualize or imagine it in any form, or even to state it adequately in any words. Such prayer given by God transcends distinct clear expression even to oneself. It is at once a light and a darkness that brings with the knowledge it confers the love that binds us to God for eternity. It is such love that is the measure of our true worth. St. John of the Cross succinctly states the case in his 57th Maxim: ďAt the eventide they will examine you in love.Ē

 

As we reflect on these mysterious truths of our faith and of our condition in this created world today, may Saint John of the Cross intercede for us and obtain the great gift of God that is the one true saving knowledge that surpasses human understanding. In our Eucharist this morning we are privileged to receive, in loving faith, the Lord Jesus himself, the wisdom of God and the power of God, who prepares us for life in his Fatherís kingdom. .††

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger


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