Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Well Said: A Lamp in the Hand of God and Stained Glass

In the Lord's saying, "when a lamp is lit, it is not put under the bushel basket...," the word for "lamp" used (Greek word) actually means "portable lamp," and this makes the saying all the more poignant. It makes us, in fact, to be a lamp in the hand of God, a light that must allow itself to be moved about by Christ as he sees fit. The house is not lit up all at once but according to the need of the moment: now the kitchen, now the dining room, now the study or the bedroom requires light. Because it is Christ who has kindled his light, the Christian will also allow his Lord to choose the particular lampstand where he will shine, and when.

[...]

It would be a great mistake, however, for us to look too avidly for the proofs of the effect of our presence in the world. Inevitably, we would lose heart, because in the end we lack the means of measuring and judging things as God sees them. Who knows the true meaning and import of what transpires in a human heart, our own or another's? How can we know whether a negative sign, such as sadness and conflict, is not in fact the middle phase of a process that will culminate in much good? Our real business is to allow God to shed his light through us, and, since the light belongs to him, he will know where to focus it and to what effect. Our endeavor should be to make ourselves transparent so as not to eclipse his brilliance.
Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis
The idea of being a lamp in Christ's hand doesn't get anywhere near the intimacy implied if we just think of a modern idea of a lamp. Reading Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Manners and Customs I was fascinated to see that lamps of the time were palm sized and would have shed light only where the person directed it. This is the lamp Christ would have been speaking of. Think of Him directing our light in the palm of his hand.

Reflecting upon this, I came across Thomas Merton's quote about transparency and God shining through.
Life is this simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable, it is true.
And at about this time I was slowly working my way through Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis' encyclical on the Light of Faith. This passage about the give and take of God's deeds and life stories shone a light on my own mind.
Israel’s confession of faith takes shape as an account of God’s deeds in setting his people free and acting as their guide (cf. Dt 26:5-11), an account passed down from one generation to the next. God’s light shines for Israel through the remembrance of the Lord’s mighty deeds, recalled and celebrated in worship, and passed down from parents to children. Here we see how the light of faith is linked to concrete life-stories, to the grateful remembrance of God’s mighty deeds and the progressive fulfilment of his promises. Gothic architecture gave clear expression to this: in the great cathedrals light comes down from heaven by passing through windows depicting the history of salvation. God’s light comes to us through the account of his self-revelation, and thus becomes capable of illuminating our passage through time by recalling his gifts and demonstrating how he fulfils his promises.
It all came together for me at that moment. Is it original? Unlikely. But it was a moment of blinding reality when I realized that my life is the stained glass window that God shines through to show others His existence, to show them some facet of His face that they need at that moment.

It was part of an opening of my own mind in answer to that question of our lives being lived in the light of God's will and of our own free will. How much is God and how much is us? The stained glass does not turn on the light which illuminates it to others, but it does paint a story that may inspire others in some way.

I can't express this well but the image shines often in my mind's eye. It is a guide for me as I make my way through the day, hoping that God will shine through the stained glass of my life in a way that others will see.

2 comments:

  1. Stained Glass windows is from #12 in Lumen Fidei
    "Here we see how the light of faith is linked to concrete life-stories, to the grateful remembrance of God’s mighty deeds and the progressive fulfilment of his promises. Gothic architecture gave clear expression to this: in the great cathedrals light comes down from heaven by passing through windows depicting the history of salvation. God’s light comes to us through the account of his self-revelation, and thus becomes capable of illuminating our passage through time by recalling his gifts and demonstrating how he fulfils his promises."

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    1. YES! THAT'S IT! You are brilliant and I thank you a thousand times! :-)

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