The Mystery of Seeing the Invisible God

“God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.” (Genesis 1:5)

“You make darkness, and it is night…” (Psalm 104:20)

“The darkness and the light are both alike to You.”  (Psalm 139:12)

Unlike the idols of the nations which have eyes but do not see (Psalm 135:16), the God of Israel, who has no eyes, is able to see and understand all that takes place on earth.  God who makes eyes for all creatures clearly sees everything but is not dependent on eyes.  For God is able to see through the thickest darkness and is never blinded by the darkness or the light.  We have to be careful when we apply the concept of sight to God who does not see as we do, though God may see what we see.

Darkness is not antithetical to God, since darkness is part of creation and is made by God to serve God’s own purposes.

And the people stood afar off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.   (Exodus 20:21)

God who is light is described as abiding in the darkness.  God can be found in the thickest darkness, and, so Solomon realizes, even prefers to dwell in darkness.  The Holy of Holies in the temple was built with no windows to respect the invisible God’s preference for darkness.   Those who have eyes which can see physically have no advantage over the blind when it comes to seeing God.  Darkness is the perfect medium for seeing the invisible God.

Then Solomon said, “The LORD has set the sun in the heavens, but has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. I have built thee an exalted house, a place for thee to dwell in for ever.”  (1 Kings 8:12-13)

 

In the midst of this talk about darkness and light, we come to realize they have a different meaning for God who is both invisible and capable of seeing despite the darkness.   Light and darkness mean something for us that they don’t mean for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Spiritually speaking the words light and darkness can only illumine our understanding of created things for they cannot directly reveal God to us.  Yet, in the darkness, in the mystery, God is revealed.

St. Gregory of Nyssa gives us a theology of darkness when he writes the Life of Moses:

“‘What now is the meaning of Moses’ entry into the darkness and of the vision of God that he enjoyed in it?…The sacred text is here teaching us that…as the soul makes progress, and by a great and more perfect concentration comes to appreciate what the knowledge of truth is, the more it approaches this vision, and so much the more does it see that the divine nature is invisible. It thus leaves all surface appearances, not only those that can be grasped by the senses but also those which the mind itself seems to see, and it keeps on going deeper until by the operation of the spirit it penetrates the invisible and incomprehensible, and it is there that it sees God.

The true vision and the true knowledge of what we seek consists precisely in not seeing, in an awareness that our goal transcends all knowledge and is everywhere cut off by the darkness of incomprehensibility. Thus that profound evangelist, John, who penetrated into this luminous darkness, tells us that no man hath seen God at any time, teaching us by this negation that no man – indeed, no created intellect – can attain a knowledge of God.’ (St. Gregory of Nyssa).

Now it is clear that the point here is not that supernatural truths are relatively obscure for the natural man; for Gregory presupposes that the soul has already been enlightened by grace, and is discussing its further progress in contemplation. After learning all that can be known of God, the soul discovers the limits of this knowledge; and this discovery is an advance, because now there is an awareness of the divine transcendence and incomprehensibility. We have then arrived at a negative, ‘apophatic’ theology. For we have now an authentic experience, a true vision. And the darkness is a positive reality that helps us to know God – that is why it is called luminous.” (Jean Danielou, From Glory to Glory, pp 29-30)

 

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2 thoughts on “The Mystery of Seeing the Invisible God

    1. Fr. Ted

      But that prince is still a creature who submits to the Lord. We spit on him in the baptismal service holding him in total contempt. He has no power not even over swine.

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