Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Thoughts about Light

 Medieval anchorites/anchoresses lived in an anchorage, a dwelling built against the wall of a church.  The anchorite had a window opening into the church, through which to receive communion, and a window opening onto the street for that other way of living the eucharist – communion with ordinary people;  sharing wisdom and taking their troubles into the heart of prayer.

The name – anchorite/anchoress/anchorage – obviously comes from ‘anchor’. What were they anchoring? The Light.  Their task in life was to anchor the light of heaven into this local spot of Earth.  They were there to beam down the Light, and hold it there.

This was a very self-giving thing. It required a kenosis, a self-emptying, a willingness to be set aside and offered up to a path of absolute simplicity, so as to achieve the level of transparency through which the Light might be poured.

*        *        *

The American mystic Elise Nevins Morgan wrote: ‘A beaming countenance, integrity of body, form and face, is all important and is only won through faith – faith in the fullness of God’s life. Repeat: “In faith I live, in faith I move, in faith knowledge dawns and I am awakened.’”
As beautiful as all her writing – but she riveted my attention with those words, ‘A beaming countenance, integrity of body, form and face’.  Usually, when people say ‘a beaming countenance’, they mean ‘a smiling face’ – but that’s not what ENM is saying here. 
Her meaning draws on the Aaronic blessing, ‘The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon thee, and be gracious unto thee, and give thee peace.’
‘The light of His countenance’ is not a cheery smile. It is the concentration, the beaming forth, of the I AM, the living core, the creative centre.
When ENM speaks of ‘A beaming countenance, integrity of body, form and face’, she is describing the task of anchoring the Light, so opening and offering oneself as to hold the Light in this local spot of Earth.

This is a very self-giving thing. It requires a kenosis, a self-emptying, a willingness to be set aside and offered up to a path of absolute simplicity, so as to achieve the level of transparency through which the Light might be poured.

*        *       *

My friend Pearl, a healer, writes poetic reflections. She works with a healer and wise man in his speaking ministry.  When he prepares to speak, he gives her the subject matter and charges her with the task of preparatory listening so that, comparing the results of their work in advance of the class he gives, they may get as it were a triangulation on the now word of God for the present moment. 
She listens, and then she writes down what comes – notebook after notebook of poetic reflections, what Pearl has heard from God.  She is well named.

I spent some time visiting with her this last week.  Here is an extract from one of her most recent listenings:
‘And then The Light  
The brightness of the heavens  
Revealing itself in the silver moon, the stars,  
In sun and sunbeams,  
Pink dawns and sunsets gold,  
Sunlight that shapes a rainbow in the sky  
By shining through myriads of raindrops in a sudden shower  
Then rippling a golden path across the sea.  
And then, the Christ-Light  
That shines through the eyes, words, touch and heart of man  
In God’s illumination of each soul.’

*        *        *

These three things taken together – the anchorage holding the light for a local spot of earth, faith holding a beaming countenance of light in a particular person, and the work of Christ in focusing the divine Light into humanity – made a sudden, immense expansion of awareness in me, gave me a startling insight into what Jesus was actually doing.

. . . have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature [or, in the form of] God,
 did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature [or, the form] of a servant,
 being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself . . .
(Philippians 2:5b-8a NIV UK)

He was the first anchorite, bringing and holding the light into this place on Earth – humanity – and by grace incarnating a beaming countenance in our midst.

This is a very self-giving thing. It requires a kenosis, a self-emptying, a willingness to be set aside and offered up to a path of absolute simplicity, so as to achieve the level of transparency through which the Light might be poured.

*        *        *

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.
(Genesis 1:1-3 NIV UK)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
(John 1:1-4 NIV UK)
*        *        *

Christ, the Logos, anchored the Light from its inception.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made.  When God said, ‘Let there be Light’, Christ was the anchor, the beaming countenance through which Light streamed and life began.

In the person of Jesus he specifically anchors Light into the human race.  The Light is diffused throughout Creation – holy, because it arrived there only through the Logos, the Christ, without whom nothing was made that is made – in dawns and dusks, in stars and sunset, in the golden glory of light across the sea, in the rainbow, in the splendour of sun amid clouds and the bright path of the moon; but in Jesus the diffused Light is made particular, anchored into us – our hope, our illumination, our salvation.

This is a very self-giving thing. It requires a kenosis, a self-emptying, a willingness to be set aside and offered up to a path of absolute simplicity, so as to achieve the level of transparency through which the Light might be poured.

*        *        *

These thoughts remind me of that wonderful poem by the theosophist Alice Anne Bailey, The Great Invocation.

From the point of Light within the Mind of God 

Let light stream forth into the minds of men
Let Light descend on Earth. 
From the point of Love within the Heart of God
Let love stream forth into the hearts of men 
 May Christ return to Earth.  
From the centre where the Will of God is known
Let purpose guide the little wills of men
The purpose which the Masters know and serve.  
From the centre which we call the race of men
Let the Plan of Love and Light work out
And may it seal the door where evil dwells.  
Let Light and Love and Power restore the Plan on Earth.

I’ve never been too sure about the bit saying ‘may it seal the door where evil dwells’.   Personally, I want evil dealt with a bit more thoroughly than that.  The cross of Jesus, standing between Earth and Heaven, acts as a kind of lightning conductor – anchoring and focusing the Light with such trustworthy stability that evil is utterly zapped; not sealed up, not temporarily thwarted, burnt to blazes, finished.

This is a very self-giving thing. It requires a kenosis, a self-emptying, a willingness to be set aside and offered up to a path of absolute simplicity, so as to achieve the level of transparency through which the Light might be poured.

*        *        *

When I participate in the Eucharist, and go to make my communion with God, as I eat the bread and drink the wine . . .
‘The Body of Christ’ 
‘Amen’ – and Augustine taught his catechumens, ‘Let your “Amen” be for “I Am”
. . . I pray, Lord Jesus, put to death all that is evil in me.  For evil cannot co-exist with Christ. In the body Christ enters, in the heart into which he is invited, evil is routed, dispatched.

This is a very self-giving thing, that Jesus does for me, in the Eucharist. It requires a kenosis, a self-emptying, a willingness to be broken and poured out and offered up to a path of absolute simplicity, so as to achieve the level of transparency through which the Light might be poured.

So it is that in me Christ the anchorite holds the Light to the particular spot of Earth that I Am, his beaming countenance announcing his new creation; Let there be Light. And it will be.

Create in me a pure heart.


Ganeidaz Knot said...

Another thought to add to your light thoughts, though I'm not a scientist so may not have remembered this quite correctly; *Darkness does not exist. Darkness is in fact simply the absence of light. Light can be studied, darkness can not. Darkness cannot be broken down. Dark is a term that we humans have created to describe what happens when there's lack of light.*

It's from one of those urban myth things but I've always remembered it because of 1 John 1:5. All our darkness is merely the result of a lack of God.

Pen Wilcock said...

How interesting!

Rapunzel said...

True indeed, you bring a candle into a dark room, light it, and the room is lighted.

You cannot come into a light room with a stick of darkness and make the room dark.

Darkness itself is not a thing.

I remember one of my dear old daddy's pet peeves was people calling Jesus "Jesus Christ" as if it were his surname. He'd explain to them it is Jesus The Christ, Jesus the illuminated one, that being the christ was his most outstanding quality and so it became a title for him, and that our responsibility in this life is also to learn to become a christ.
which should be a big enough project to last a lifetime I think.

Pen Wilcock said...

Amen to that. My thoughts are focussing on becoming a beaming countenance, a facet of light xx

gail said...

This is something that causes much contemplation. My thoughts are that I can work toward emptying myself when I am alone and quiet. It's harder for me when others are around, as I easily get distracted and drawn back into worldliness. Not in a bad way but simply drawn into everyday moments. And yet this is where the light must shine to illuminate the presence of God. I would love for you to talk more on the emptying part.
I am thinking the Quakers in their silence and gentleness probably find the emptying quite natural even in the midst of others.They sit so comfortably with the silence and one can almost feel the light. A difficult thing for me to explain.
So much to consider here Pen. I'm really enjoying the way you make me stretch my thinking. Thank you.
Blessings Gail

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) I suspect it may be important that the emptying is detoxing our souls, not starving them. Allowing what clogs up our lives and does not nourish us to drain away, to quietly leave - reaching for what feeds and energises us, letting the light flow in. xx

gail said...

Thank you Pen, I see the key word here is allowing; not trying, not forcing. Just a gentle draining away of the unnecessary to make room for the flow of light which indeed feeds and nourishes me and in turn can warm those I come into contact with. Such a simple but life changing way to live. The ripple effect of God's love. Have a lovely weekend Pen and to all who visit the Quiet Way.
Blessings Gail

Rapunzel said...

A facet of The Light sounds like a good human sized goal to aim for.
I myself seem to have become more of a cracked vessel, but sometimes, just sometimes a bit of The Light shines through the cracks.
Emptiness is important here. Without it instead of light shining through the cracks you just get your own internal gooshiness leaking out.

Pen Wilcock said...

“There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.”

― Leonard Cohen, Selected Poems, 1956-1968


Rapunzel said...

Awww, thank you Pen and Mr Cohen....if Everything has a crack I'm in good company.

Pen Wilcock said...

Totally. Like those broken Japanese thingummies they fix up with gold. x

Rapunzel said...

Exactly! Twice as beautiful for the brokenness and mending.

Lynda P said...

This has provided so much to think about. Thank you.I was also inspired to look for books by Elise Nevins Morgan! It would seem that some are available from the usual online sellers but there are no reviews or "product descriptions" of their content. One or two are out of print and therefore expensive. Could you recommend a good one to start with please?

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Because many Plain/Orthodox/Evangeical Christians read here in good faith, let me stress Elise Nevins Morgan is not mainstream Christian but Theosophist. I personally find her work wonderfully inspirational and helpful, but I ought to make the point clear even so. I have not seen that many of her books - a friend has them, and has let me browse through, then gave me one as a gift - but my favourite of those I have seen is "The ANgel of the Presence". x

Anekha said...

I love your posts about the Anchorites… they give me so much food for reflection.
Your last line also brought me back to quotes from my Bahá'i faith. I will share them with you in case you find them interesting.
"Create in me a pure heart, O my God, and renew a tranquil conscience within me, O my Hope!"
There is another poem popular in my faith that has this line.
"Oh, God, make me a hollow reed, from which the pith of self hath been blown so that I may become as a clear channel through which Thy Love may flow to others."
It reminds me of what you talk about with the anchorites. It is something I aspire to, but I feel I fall short. I love reading your words and they encourage me to keep trying.

Anekha said...

I am also reminded of this beautiful Islamic prayer.
Muhammad's Prayer
O God,
give me light in my heart
and light in my tongue
and light in my hearing
and light in my sight
and light in my feeling
and light in all body
and light before me
and light behind me.

Give me, I pray Thee,
Light on my right hand
And light on my left hand
And light above me
And light beneath me,

O Lord,
Increase light within me
And give me light
And illuminate me.

Pen Wilcock said...

Such beautiful prayers! Thank you, Anekha xx