Winter solstice. The turning of the year. The shortest day, the longest night.
I'm pondering invisible light. Not darkness, not the absence of light, but invisible light. The light that is at the heart of all life, the light of God.
In The Book of Creation: an introduction to Celtic Spirituality, Philip Newell writes:
Nothing has life apart from this light. It dapples through the whole of creation. It is within the brilliance of the morning sun and the whiteness of the moon at night. It issues forth in all that grows from the ground and in the life that shines from the eyes of any living creature. This is not to pretend that there are not also terrible darknesses deep within us and in the whole of creation. Rather it is to say that the light is deeper still and that it emanates from the love of God.
This 'first day' light is something other than sun, moon, stars, which aren't created until the fourth day. They come forth from that light, but so do the earth, and the waters and all of creation. For Celtic Christianity, all life is woven through with this light of God, which is dark inaccessible mystery, invisible, divine darkness, the dazzling dark, the invisible fiery light.
Perhaps it is the darkness and the light that the psalmist wrote of, in Psalm 139:11-12:
If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,"
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
From that inaccessible light of God all life comes forth, whether that be the morning light of the burning sun, the yellow brilliance of a sunflower growing from the dark ground or the glow of a starfish emerging in the depths of the sea. It is the light within all life, or as George MacLeod says, the 'Sun behind all suns.' Our eyes cannot see it, not can human thought nor imagination grasp it.
We may not be able to see it, or comprehend it, but perhaps the 'eyes of our heart' might catch a glimpse as we ponder the sparks of light that we do see. So here, from the archives, is a sunrise, a sunflower and a star, each in its own way a mix of dark and light.
* Image Credit: NASA/Swift Science Team/Stefan Immler
(I wanted a photo that hinted at some of the astronomical background for the solstice, and chose this one primarily because it's beautiful -- but then I read the accompanying explanatory note below, and was struck by the juxtaposition of worldviews wrestling with mystery and beginnings.)
The Triangulum Galaxy is located nearly 3 million light years from Earth. And, in a study that pushes the limits of observations currently possible from Earth, a team of NASA and European scientists recorded the "fingerprints" of mystery molecules in the Triangulum Galaxy, as well as the Andromeda Galaxy.
Figuring out exactly which molecules are leaving these clues, known as "diffuse interstellar bands" (DIBs), is a puzzle that initially seemed straightforward but has gone unsolved for nearly a hundred years. The answer is expected to help explain how stars, planets and life form.
"Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"
I've taken on a prayer practice of looking for the moments of light in each day, whether actual or metaphorical, and then writing or posting photos of what I find.