From a conversation with Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE
In the Genesis creation account, in the beginning, there is light. That’s fascinating, because we understand God to be light before God creates light (the light of the sun). There’s something incredibly reassuring in that God creates the light we can see, and separates it from darkness. God is orchestrating it all. And with infinite possibilities God decides to create a kind of cadence of life with light and darkness that fills each day. The soul needs this balance as much as the earth does. We can only bear so much light. If there’s too much light coming at us, we risk being blinded. Light can be as blinding as darkness. God, who is Light, has orchestrated light in a way that we can take it in, but only in limited amounts and not all the time. If there is light on all the time, there is no opportunity to take what has been presented to us and to appropriate its meaning, to sift through it.
I love a recurring image in the scriptures: the light of God’s countenance shining upon us. The countenance is reflected in the face of a person. It’s more than just physiology; the countenance is the window of the soul, how the essence of a person is expressed, and accessed. Long before the psychologists had named “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (SAD) for those who suffer in the bleak mid-winter – when there’s not enough light on our faces – the sages of old had figured this out by experience.
When Jesus is on the mountaintop with his disciples, he is visited by God’s Spirit and Jesus becomes a changed man. His countenance is absolutely transfigured with light.
Receive the light of God’s countenance looking on you tenderly, compassionately, hopefully, lovingly. If there is some part of you that seems quite dark, you need not be afraid of God’s light. God is fully enlightened about who you are, and what you are, why you are as you are. Which is the point of Jesus, who comes to set us free from our very dark prisons. Let the light of Jesus’ countenance shine upon you.
Then release the light. With “the eyes of your heart enlightened” (Saint Paul’s phrase), allow God’s light, and life, and love to teem from your own countenance as you face others in the course of the day. The light of your countenance can very powerfully bequeath dignity upon others who suffer from fear, loneliness, rejection, shame. The great wonder of light is that even the smallest amount of light overcomes darkness. Jesus says to us:
“You are light.” Be light!
“The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace.”