Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Great Light

It's the line that echoes from the Isaiah passage (9:1-4) to the gospel reading (Matthew 4:12-23) on the second Sunday after Epiphany(A): The people who walked in [sat in] darkness have seen a great light.

I was all ready to bedazzle this blog post with some of the amazing light installations that contemporary artists are creating. Millions of lights created through actual lights and reflections in mirrored rooms. Images the size of a cathedral wall projected onto...a cathedral wall. Lights that change according to programmed pattern or random change. Clear lights. Colored lights.

And then I wondered if "great light" might mean something else entirely.

Perhaps the light wasn't great because it was a spectacular display of cosmic fireworks. Perhaps the light was great because of what happened by it.

After all, the pyramids of Giza, Gothic cathedrals, the rock churches of Lalibela - all of these were made at a time when the world was (to quote a book title) lit only by fire. Abraham Lincoln didn't learn to read by flipping on a light switch when he got back to the family cabin after working all day. Astronomers around the globe created maps of the heavens. They found those stars with a candle or lantern sitting on the work table next to their telescopes. Any nighttime construction at Stonehenge was done by torchlight. Even for Jesus, who might have been welcomed to earth with a cosmic light show, it wasn't a daily occurrence. And despite what artists might have you believe, there probably wasn't a disk of unnatural light around his head. Someone would have mentioned that. Jesus' life was lit by oil-fueled lanterns and fires.

What might happen, then, when we think about the "great light" that we have seen? Not the star that led magi, but Jesus. How might that great light move us, lead us, call us?

But I can't help myself, so check out the Art&Faith Matters Facebook page for just one of those light installations. Click on the link below.


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