The past few weeks have been filled with a theme: Walk in the light. At church a couple of Sundays past, we dedicated a new baptismal font. It reminded me of the song we used to sing at another church I used to attend:
I want to walk as a child of the light / I want to follow Jesus
God set the stars to give light to the world / The star of my life is Jesus.
In Him there is no darkness at all / The night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the City of God / Shine in our hearts, Lord Jesus.
I want to see the brightness of God / I want to look at Jesus
Clear sun of righteousness, shine on my path / And show me the way to the Father.
We would sing this song whenever someone was baptized as an expression of the heart of the believer choosing to follow Christ. The verses echo the single-hearted devotion to the vision of God espoused by David in Psalm 27: “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.” (27:4, ESV)
From time to time, and hopefully more frequently in the future, I attend Mass at a wonderful monastery run by an order of monks and nuns called The Community of the Lamb. They felt called to come to the United States from France to live in an impoverished and troubled community On New Year’s Eve, the feast of the Blessed Mother Mary, the celebration began late on the 31st and continued into the New Year. As the clock struck midnight, we heard gunshots outside, which is expected. But then, there seemed to be more gunshots than normal…then the sounds of ambulances, sirens, and shouts. It all lasted what seemed to be a long time. Outside, it was dark, it was late, cold, and in a state chaotic confusion. But inside, we basked in warmth and light and praise. It was a beautiful picture of life in Christ vis a vis life in the world.
The order came to a dark place to be a lantern in its midst. Day in and day out, they pray and praise and sing purely because God is worthy of praise–like the seraphim about His throne singing “Holy, Holy, Holy!”. To some, monastic life seems dreary, boring and austere. But the more time I spend with the Community of the Lamb, the more I can see how brightly the light of Christ shines among them. Also, having been taught by several nuns, I’ve always thought the stereotype of the legalistic and harsh nun was unfortunate, as most that I have known have been without fail the most kind, empathetic, and charitable people I have ever met. I remember once when very little meeting a nun in the store and my mother and I were so happy to have met her that we went searching the convents in the area to see if we could find her again and visit her. We didn’t find her, but in my memory I can still see her looking down at me, beaming a smile. She was filled with light and it was that light that drew my mother and I to her. (No wonder saints are always depicted with halos!)
When I take the time to set aside all of my daily cares and allow their chanting to flow through my spirit, I realize just how small my concerns are, and often feel embarrassed by the worldliness of my desires. No one knows but me, and yet the purity of the light in their midst shines upon the dark spots in my soul. I find myself wondering why I’ve been preoccupied with such and such a thing, or why this and that seemed so important to me before I walked in. C.S. Lewis has some thoughts on this, from his essay “The Weight of Glory,” in the book by the same name. In fact, just this morning, our priest read the excerpt (starts at 30:40):
The whole sermon is definitely worth hearing, but the quote is here:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Lewis is one who had a particular gift for conveying the light of God in the coming New Creation through his writings. My favorite book of his is The Great Divorce, which I recently had the opportunity to see dramatized by the Fellowship for the Performing Arts. It was such a wonderful adaptation of the book, and completely faithful to its theological message. And as such, it quickly reminded me of why reading Lewis has always been so spiritually fruitful: Lewis makes the thought of heaven genuinely more desirable than anything we could ever call good on earth. I say “genuinely” because there are no “shoulds” or “supposed to’s”about it. When you see the vision of the goodness of Christ and His Creation through Lewis’ eyes, you cannot help but to see it as so much more beautiful and wonderful and worthy than even the best fallen humanity has to offer.
The light is always available to us. It is our choice whether to walk in it or not, whether to abide in it or not; whether to allow ourselves to continually experience the warmth of His Sun, or to allow ourselves to be tossed to and fro by the vissicitudes of life and our own frustrations, disappointments, and strivings. Moreover, it is up to us to desire the light more than the darkness of this world. One way to continually cultivate a desire for light is to meditate on those things that fill us with light. This accords with Paul’s admonition in Philippians: ” Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (4:8, ESV)
In an essay titled “Transposition” included in The Weight of Glory Lewis envisions the possibility of our earthly lives taken up into the life of God. Those familiar with musical terms will know that to transpose a song means to take a melody and accompanying chords and shift it into an entirely new key. It will sound the same, yet different. I realized at the performance that so much of the joy and delight I’ve found in reading Lewis’ writings is that he is constantly showing his readers the possibility of the transposition of this life into a higher, brighter key. We know that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” and at the same time rejoice in the fact that “He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world.” The Light that Christians bear within is enough to overcome the darkness of this world. And the Light within us bears witness to our hope of joining Christ in that City where the Sun never sets.