O Nata Lux – Morten Lauridsen
O Light born of Light, Jesus, redeemer of the world,
mercifully deign to accept the praises and prayers of your suppliants.
O you who once deigned to be hidden in flesh on behalf of the lost,
grant us to be made members of your blessed body.
10th Century Hymn for the Feast of the Transfiguration
So I admit that the timing for using this piece in the church year is a bit….unique. On the one hand, I am a little late for Transfiguration Sunday, for which the hymn was originally written. On the other hand, I am early for the Christmas season, which has become a popular season of performance for this piece in many choirs across America.
Rather than focusing on the single word, “born,” which transfigured a Transfiguration hymn into a Christmas Carol, I am struck in this text by another single word: “Light.”
It is amazing how much changes in light change our perceptions of things. A dimly lit old barn is spooky. An old barn in the daytime is charming. Telling a scary story? Put a flashlight under your chin. But it goes further than that – light not only changes how we subjectively perceive things, it can change our objective view as well! Casey and I played an Escape Room a bit ago (not to brag, but we totally got out) and part of the game was using a blacklight to reveal writings that were invisible to the naked eye.
Scripture is rife with allusions to light, but when we call God a “light on my path” (Psalm 119:105) or “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), what kind of light are we talking about? I don’t think anyone would choose this analogy, but I think a lot of people like to think of God as a blacklight. God sheds light on those secret beauties of the world that others might not see.
It’s kind of beautiful when put that way, and, I will admit, I see some truth in this perspective. A relationship with Christ does shed light on new and unique glories. I even like that the analogy extends to how blacklights bring out the bright colors, the neons, the whites – the good and joy in the world.
Equally true could be seeing God as a white light. This is certainly the most popular view in media and art. I doubt you’ve ever seen a painting of the Spirit descending as a dove, flourescently glowing in the blacklight from on high. As much as I’d love to see that…No, the Dove descends, surrounded by a pure white glow.
I think what we have learned about white light over the last few millenia really serves to enhance this perspective, because we now know that rather than a singular type of light, white light is actually a combination of all colors in the color spectrum. All the colors of the rainbow are represented in the pure white light! This speaks not only to the inclusive nature of God’s kingdom, but I think it also says something about how we are called to see one another in Christ. The light of Christ is the ability to see the world in all different lights. It is empathy!
Think of how many political issues arise, or stay unsolved, because parties struggle to view an issue in anything other than a red or a blue light. Think of how many family arguments are started because we look at the same issue with our different color glasses on. The light we let in matters.
I wish I knew the answer for how to rid myself of those tinted lenses for good, but I think wrestling with your spectacles is an inevitable part of walking with Christ. I don’t think we are meant to even take them off. Maybe we can’t, fully.
But even if we can’t see all the light right now, we can still talk. We can still listen. We can still try and learn more about a fully illuminated world by talking with folks whose filters look a little different than our own.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 13:12