Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Lord is my Illumination


I feel like I have been in a little bit of a funk thus far this January. Hanging about at home trying to think of things to do, murmuring resentments to myself at times about circumstances not going well, that sort of thing (I have been reading, and lately finished The Light Between Oceans and The Little Prince, but will leave that out for now). Sometime late last year I dropped the habit of reading blogs, which had some positives, but I have realised it had some negatives also, namely that reading well-chosen blogs can serve to lift your gaze out of your own pathetic little life. Last night after sitting on the couch staring into space I flicked into feedly and read a few choice blogs and realised particularly what I’d missed.

I read this post on Lanier’s Books, which was beautiful as always, with the challenge to believe that God loves us as much as he says he does and to take the joy the he holds out. I loved the story of the small child's joy at Christmas, and when she wrote this—
So lately come from God herself, she was the closest of all of us to the mystery we were celebrating. Whether she could ever comprehend it or not, her innocent antics woke an elemental gladness in me that the darkness absolutely cannot extinguish. That Light is just too faithful.
—I feel to wondering. I had also just read the story Jesus told about coming to him like little children, with their exemplary trust in him. We tend to think that children are trusting and full of wonder because they’ve yet to be tainted by this old rotting earth, but could it be that perhaps it’s because of where their souls have lately been? I guess we’ll never know. I for one can’t remember. I pondered in what state people might exist before they physically exist, and where it might be that they come from. Then my brain ached.

I read some of Don Miller’s latest posts in the lead up to the release of his book Scary Close, about relationships, which began to make me feel a little healthier and less toxic on the inside.

I was also musing more on that light that darkness cannot extinguish, which is a symbol that keeps appearing lately.

So, feeling rather more refreshed and internally dusted, I turned on a Life is Beautiful CD, from ABC Classic FM, and read an essay called Dominus Illuminatio Mea, by Sarah Clarkson, from Molehill Volume 1, which is a little personal essay about an essay that she wrote for Oxford on CS Lewis and beauty, which started with the problem—
Sometimes I feel that there is an impossible divide between the scholar who works to know what is sure and the dreamer who knows what is voiceless but true. I hunger to understand what beauty communicates and how it may be set against all that is known by the stricter articulation of logic and reason.
—and shows how the tension of beauty pulling against the truth of mere reason prompted Lewis’s own journey to faith, as many will have read in Surprised by Joy. Some of what else she discusses along the way is perhaps more interesting, about the knowledge of experience and language of beauty etc, but when she reads Dominus Illuminatio Mea, meaning The Lord is my Illumination, carved into one of many walls at Oxford, she concludes:
I see that throughout its many centuries of scholars, the wisest in Oxford have been those who understand, as Lewis did, that in every facet of our life and experience, in every nook of the world, in every last depth of study, in every sentence of a book, God reaches out to our minds, our souls, our beings. God illumines me through the crisp, marching order of words that speak his logical truth but also through the taste and touch of the earth, the dim nights and bright mornings, the dusky enchantment of music, the force of love given and received, and again through the words in which I cup these experiences. One in the other, the knowing of mind taking hands with the knowing of heart, each flowing in and out of the other, but always expressing the one, great fact of God. There is no division, for every word and wonder in the universe means and speaks God’s love and presence in the life of the world.

Lewis knew this. His faith in God was founded on his acceptance of the fact that life is ultimately something we may only enjoy from inside of experience [by stepping into that sunbeam, not simply observing it]. God is the one speaks us into being and sets us in the midst of a world of metaphors that speak forth his goodness and point ceaselessly back to their Creator. We cannot stand apart from our own being and analyze our existence. We can only experience the world and the words given to us by a Mind greater than our own. To believe in God is to know ourselves readers in a vast realm of metaphor. Every touch of truth, goodness, or beauty is one more facet of God’s ceaseless communication.

I knowing this, Lewis reconciled his divided thought. Beauty and truth, logic and joy—they all came from the same great Life beating at the core of existence.
Lest some think I have run off into mysticism or pantheism or any other "ism", in writing that God communicates in creation, it was Mr Calvin himself who wrote:
The creation is quite like a spacious and splendid house, provided and filled with the most exquisite and at the same time the most abundant furnishings. Everything in it tells us of God.
Institutes 1:14

Perhaps none of these fragments will make any cohesive sense to any but me, but I might go through 2015 lighting an evening candle or two and remembering Dominus Illuminatio Mea, with a light that is forever faithful.

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