"The Piercing White Light"

For this final blog of the now diminished, vanishing year, may I share with you the reflections of a young British poet and horticulturalist, Philip Britts (1917-1949). His pensive brooding is the sort of ruminating that does our souls good on the spiritual eve of yet another journey around the sun.

Britts wisely observes: "We are human and finite, and thus cannot live perpetually in a sense of expectation, or in a continuous Advent" (Watch for the Light 110). The truth of our frail humanity is that we simply are unable to sustain a red hot expectancy—for anything, let alone the advent of our Lord. "We are distracted by many things. Our spiritual awareness waxes and wanes in intensity. . . . We may get lifted up in moments of tenderness but will be cast down in hours of dryness. The swing of emotions is natural to us, and some are more subject to extremes than others. We mustn't despair about this" (ibid).

Truth is, feelings are both our boon and our bane. Which is why holiday seasons like this one can jack us up, only moments later to jerk us back down. The roller coaster of human emotions—of a life overrun by feelings—who hasn't ridden that ride?

Thus our deep need is for the objectivity of the faith story, Britts reminds us: "It is here that we need to see why it was necessary for Christ to come to the earth. God has come to us because we, by our own power of soul, by our own emotions, even the noblest and most sublime, can never attain redemption, can never regain communion with God" (111). He is right: "Spiritual depth, it is true, is the working of God coming down and penetrating to the depths of our hearts, and not of our soul's climbing. No ladder of mysticism can ever meet or find or possess God" (ibid, emphasis supplied). Bethlehem, Nazareth, Calvary—the narrative of Christ's birth, life, death is never the tale of us climbing up, but rather ever the story of His coming down. The ladder is His, not ours.

"To put it quite simply, spiritual experience, whether it be of faith, hope (or expectancy) or love, is something we cannot manufacture, but which we can only receive. If we direct our lives to seeking it for ourselves we shall lose it, but if we lose our lives by living out the daily way of Christ we shall find it" (111-112).

Philip Britts then thrusts his point: ". . . what is decisive is that we accept and live by and surrender ourselves to a strength which is not our own, to the piercing white light of God's love" (113). Pause for a moment and reread that line.

Because that is my New Year prayer for you, "the piercing white light of God's love"—a Light so bright, a Love so strong no residual darkness from the waning year could possibly hold you back or keep you down.

"[For Jesus] said, 'I am the Light of the world'. . . . [and] having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end" (John 8:12; 13:1).

"The piercing white light."