Sitting in Darkness but Seeing the Light

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

“... the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  (Matthew 4:16-17)

All that exists, even darkness, is made by God.  God is the Creator of all things – both the visible and the invisible.  Darkness is part of the created order and is not some power outside of God or even opposed to God.  Darkness plays a role in salvation.  St Macarius says:

“I say to you, my child, if Moses had not entered the darkness, he would not have been given the tablets of the covenant written by the finger of God [Ex 19–23].”   (St. Macarius The Spirit Bearer: Coptic Texts Relating To Saint Macarius, Kindle Location 2936-2939)

Isaiah had prophesied:

In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.  (Is 29:18)

Out of the darkness the blind will see – which is what St Paul claims is fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord:

For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.   (2 Corinthians 4:6)

The image which St Paul describes surprises us for God doesn’t shine into the darkness but out of it.  Even the darkness serves God’s will and purpose.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to You, [O Lord];
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to You.

(Psalms 139:11-12)

Astronomically Speaking: What Are Humans?


When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,

and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

(Psalm 8:3-9)

Astrophysicist Carl Sagan waxes eloquently on the same topic – how grand the universe and how tiny we humans are on that grand scale of things:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”  (THE OXFORD BOOK OF MODERN SCIENCE WRITING, p 395)

I suppose Carl Sagan would roll over in his grave if he knew his writings was going to be used positively in a religious context – but then he didn’t believe in an afterlife, so I guess he won’t be rolling anywhere.  But his beautiful prose seemed to go well with the poem, “God”, written by Gavriil Derzhavin in 1784:

If all this mass of earth and sky,
This universe that we can see,
Is but a drop dropped in a sea,
Then what, compared to you, am I?
And if I saw not just this one
But five score times a million
Worlds, and if then I dared compare
Them to you, they would seem a dot
Tossed on an ample sea of air.

NASA Hubble Photo

I, too, next to you, am but naught.
Nothing!—and yet you shine within me
With magnanimity of virtue,
Your holy image etched upon me,
Like the sun on a drop of water.
Nothing!—yet, filled with breath of life,
Moved by a spiritual strife
And thirst, my soul flies up to you
And, in a state of high elation
And concentrated meditation,
It knows: if I am, you are too!

(THE WHEEL Issue 19 Fall 2019, p 43)

The vastness of space –  the size of the  known universe – defies human comprehension.  Poets, scientists and the Psalmist all have marveled at the universe and the human role in it.  The bigger the universe – or at least our understanding of it – the more distant God can seem.  And yet the witness of Scripture is that God is not far away, but always close to us, even dwelling in our hearts.  “... they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being‘” (Acts 17:27-28).

Additionally, each human is created as a microcosm of the universe, and God dwells in each of us.

“You must understand that you are another world in miniature, and that there is in you sun and moon and stars.  …  Hear something else that the Lord says to his disciples: ‘You are the light of the world‘ (Mt 5:14).  Do you still doubt that there is sun and moon in you, you to whom is said that you are the ‘light of the world’?  Do you want to hear still more about yourself, lest perhance by thinking small and humbly of yourself you might neglect your life as of little worth?  This world has its own governor, it has someone who rules it and lives in it, the almighty God, as he himself says through the prophet: ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord‘ (Jer 23:24).

Listen to what the almighty God also says about you, that is about human beings: ‘I will live in them,’ he says, ‘and move among them‘ (2 Cor 6:16). … This world possesses the Son of God, it possesses the Holy Spirit, as the prophet says: ‘By the WORD of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth‘ (Ps 33:6).”  (Origen, SPIRIT AND FIRE, pp 40-41)

Creation Involves Risk

I appreciated the comment in the New York Times op-ed, “Every Moment With My Son Is an Act of Creation”  by Viet Thanh Nguyen

“There is no creativity, or creation, including the making and raising of children, that comes without risk. I now understand what I never did as a child: that I was the product of my parents taking a risk. The risk that their gift of love would be rejected; the risk that they would be misunderstood; the risk that their creation would have a life of his own.”

That risk that parents take when deciding to have children appears to have been experienced by God in bringing humans into existence.

And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.   (Genesis 6:6)

... the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.   (Genesis 8:21)

It may seem wrong for us to imagine that God took a risk in creating humans – after all God is omniscient and omnipotent.  Yet, in bestowing free will on humans, God was taking a risk – and allowing choice, uncertainty, ambiguity to be part of rational creation.  God gave humans free will – with consequences.  God did not predetermine everything, but rather watched to see His creation unfold in unexpected ways.   We see the same thing in  physics, for in creating a universe with quantum mechanics, God builds into creation some indeterminacy, some probability, some unknowingness, some chance.  By allowing mutations to occur within the genetic process of producing DNA, God allowed change into all living beings.  And then there is humanity with its free will.   We see this being enacted in Genesis 2 when Adam is given the task of naming the animals.  God watches to see what the human will decide is the name of each animal.  God doesn’t predetermine this naming, but watches and seems to enjoy the creativity which the free-willed human exhibits in creating new and unexpected names for the animals.  Creative genius can unexpectedly change the world, but so can changes in the genetic process, and the natural working out of the laws of physics.  So many things happen naturally everyday for which we are not able to see or even anticipate their consequences.

So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.   (Genesis 2:19)

 

Thanksgiving (2019)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Since this is a great American holiday, here is a poem from a great American Poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar.

A THANKSGIVING POEM

The sun hath shed its kindly light,

Our harvesting is gladly o’er

Our fields have felt no killing blight,

Our bins are filled with goodly store.

From pestilence, fire, flood, and sword

We have been spared by thy decree,

And now with humble hearts, O Lord,

We come to pay our thanks to thee.

We feel that had our merits been

The measure of thy gifts to us,

We erring children, born of sin,

Might not now be rejoicing thus.

No deed of ours hath brought us grace;

When thou were nigh our sight was dull,

We hid in trembling from thy face,

But thou, O God, wert merciful.

Thy mighty hand o’er all the land

Hath still been open to bestow

Those blessings which our wants demand

From heaven, whence all blessings flow.

Thou hast, with ever watchful eye,

Looked down on us with holy care,

And from thy storehouse in the sky

Hast scattered plenty everywhere.

Then lift we up our songs of praise To thee,

O Father, good and kind;

To thee we consecrate our days;

Be thine the temple of each mind.

With incense sweet our thanks ascend;

Before thy works our powers pall;

Though we should strive years without end,

We could not thank thee for them all.

(The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar,  Kindle Location 6676-6691)

Basil the Great: Reading Scripture and Creation

Image 1…in the Bible to bless God is not a “religious” or “cultic” act, but the very way of life. …All rational, spiritual and other qualities of man, distinguishing him from other creatures, have their focus and ultimate fulfillment in this capacity to bless God, to know, so to speak, the meaning of the thirst and hunger that constitutes his life. “Homo sapiens”, “homo faber”…yes, but first of all, “homo adorans”. The first and basic definition of man is that he is the priest. He stands at the center of the world and unifies it in his act of blessing God, of both receiving the world from God and offering it to God…”  (Fr. Alexander Schmemann, For The Life of the World)

Fr Schmemann saw the human as basically a worshiping creature.   Yes, we are ingenious at fabricating things, we are sentient and capable of wisdom.  But for Schmemann the human was created by God to be a priest, to worship  the Lord and that is partially what we lost when we humans decided we don’t need God to know our universe.  As soon as we desired to approach the cosmos in a role other than as priest in service of God, when we stopped seeing creation as a means to our maintaining our relationship with God, we lost our unique role as humans in the cosmos and lost our communion with our Creator.

St. Basil the Great saw humans as  ‘homo legitur‘ – the literary beings – the ones, as theologian Stephen M. Hildebrand notes in his biography of the Saint, created by God to be able to read not only the scriptures but the cosmos itself.  Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins writes this ability to read is what sets humans apart as a species: “Our ability to understand the universe and our position in it is one of the glories of the human species.  Our ability to link mind to mind by language, and especially to transmit our thoughts across the centuries is another.  Science and literature, then, are the two achievements of Homo sapiens that most convincingly justify the specific name” (THE OXFORD BOOK OF MODERN SCIENCE WRITING, p 3).  Modern science agrees with St Basil that we are gifted to read.  However, a difference between modern science and St Basil would be that Basil believed God gave us two sets of scripture – the Bible and creation, both written to reveal God to  us.  We need to learn to read both while modern science only wants to focus on the empirical cosmos which it does not see as revealing divinity to us.   Hildebrand writes:

Basil sees man as a reader, but a reader must have a text. Man’s texts, for Basil, are principally two, the Scriptures and the whole of creation, including the human body. The author of man’s two books is God himself. One important implication here is that both the Scriptures and creation, being texts, are full of meaning and significance. The posture that the French poet Paul Claudel took before reality expresses well St. Basil’s too. Claudel in front of a piece of reality—a flower, a mountain, a woman—always felt the need to ask, “Qu’est-ce que ça veut dire?”‘  We might typically translate this as ‘What does it mean?’ but literally it is rendered ‘What does it want to say?’ For Basil, the Scriptures and the world want to say something, or God wants to say something through them.

So man is the reader, and creation and the Scriptures are the texts, the books. Basil tells his flock, ‘This whole world is as it were a book that proclaims the glory of God, announcing through itself the hidden and invisible greatness of God to you who have a mind for the apprehension of truth‘ (Hex. 11.4; 51).  The text, whether creation, the Scriptures, or the human body, calls for a response from the reader.”  (Basil of Caesarea, Kindle Loc 657-667)

Basil believed the cosmos, creation, including the human body were a text to be read by humans to understand what God has done, is doing, is going to do.  In every sense of the word, Basil looked beyond the literal to find the meaning and for him the meaning always had to do with discovering the Creator through God’s activity in the cosmos.  “Glory to You [O Lord] spreading out before me heaven and earth, like the pages in a book of eternal wisdom” (from the Akathist, “Glory to God for All Things”).

I would suggest that St Basil would have been impressed with exactly how much modern science and technology has been able to read from the text of creation including the human body.   Just think about all the things we read in drawing blood samples from people or through pathology, chemical analysis, and especially now through DNA which is literally a language that has been recording all that God has been doing in and through humans for as long as humanity has been on the planet and even in the millions of years before that.  “In the beginning was the word.  The word was not DNA.  That came afterwards, when life was already established … But DNA contains a record of the word, faithfully transmitted through all subsequent aeons to the astonishing present”  (Matt Ridley quoted in THE OXFORD BOOK OF MODERN SCIENCE WRITING, p 40).

Just think about ways we read creation today:  paleontology, archaeology, radio waves, molecular structures, laws of physics,  history, anthropology, biological evolution, quantum mechanics, chemical structures and signatures, mathematical equations, binary code,  the remnants of the Big Bang, just to name a few.  Creation has been recording all that God is doing from the beginning, and we are just beginning to learn to read the text which is the cosmos and to understand God’s creation and God’s activity from the beginning of the universe.  God has His hand in creating the cosmos and that cosmos is the record of what God was and is writing.  God’s narrative is God’s creation just as Scripture is – God’s word for those who could read to comprehend what God is willing to reveal.

We can read today so much more from the cosmos and about creation than St Basil ever imagined was possible (as well as countless things he couldn’t imagine at all).  As we sing in the Akathist “Glory to God for All Things”: “The breath of Your Holy Spirit inspires artists, poets, scientists. The power of Your supreme knowledge makes them prophets and interpreters of Your laws, who reveal the depths of Your creative wisdom. Their works speak unwittingly of You. How great are You in Your creation! How great are You in man!

Of course, just like in scriptural interpretation there is the danger of reading what we believe into the text rather than seeing what the text reveals.  Eisegesis instead of exegesis is a risk for scientists as it is for biblical scholars.

We are the creatures who have learned not only to read, but also to write, to create literature.  This is part of what Dawkins says sets humans apart.  But in creating  literature, we also are not only using our reading skills, we are participating in creation and in the creative process.  Chemist Peter Atkins who says all creation is moving toward chaos and collapse notes that literature, as well as music and architecture really are ways in which we slow down nature’s slide into chaos.  “The emergence of consciousness, like the unfolding of a leaf, relies upon restraint.  Richness, the richness of the perceived world and the richness  of the imagined worlds of literature and art – the human spirit- is the consequence of controlled, not precipitate, collapse”  (quoted in THE OXFORD BOOK OF MODERN SCIENCE WRITING, p 16).

The Genesis creation account has God working against chaos, against entropy, to create [Greek: Poetry] order and bring life into existence.  This is a miracle in the midst of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.   Humans have an ability as God does to bring restraint to the universal move toward entropy.  Our ability to read and write are part of our creative abilities which put restraint, even if only temporarily on the slide to chaos.  God as the original writer or poet of creation gives to us what we can read – God brings restraint to entropy.  We humans can share in that creativity by exhibiting restraint!  And when we are truly creative, we put restraint on entropy as Atkins noted.  ‘Art’ that yields chaos is simply doing what the cosmos does naturally -move toward entropy which in the end is not art at all.  True human genius is restraining to entropy and controlled.

The second law of thermodynamics

Hildebrand continues:

“As Basil says about Genesis 1:26, ‘We have, on the one hand, you see, what looks, in its form, like a story, but is, on the other hand, at the level of power, a theology’ (Hex. 10.4).  God, then, is not concerned merely to communicate so much information, even useful information, about himself or about us. The Scriptures are not just informative, but, if you will, performative, and here the action that God wishes us to perform is the worship of him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As a reader, man is constantly called to relate to God and to his own salvation what he finds in the two great books, Scripture and creation, that have been given to him. This is why Basil is never interested in mere history or mere observation.”  (Basil of Caesarea, Kindle Loc  673-678)

Science will only be interested in the informative part of creation, but believers are called to the performative part – knowing the truth, how are we to behave?  This is where St Basil is not so much interested in history or the ‘facts’ as he is in what does it mean, especially in our understanding of God and God’s will.   Basil sees Genesis as story but as a narrative with a message: the revelation of God also known as theology.  It is the message which we ultimately want to know.  To turn Genesis into science or facts or to reduce it to history is to look at creation through the eyes of science rather than the eyes of faith.  Scripture is to open the eyes of our heart to the depths of meaning which God is revealing to us.  The study of creation can have the same purpose which is why Christians should pay attention to nature and science as St Basil recommended.

The Cosmos as Scripture

In the wondrous blending of sounds, it is your call we hear. In the harmony of many voices, in the sublime beauty of music, in the glory of the works of great composers, you lead us to the threshold of paradise to come, and to the choirs of angels.

All true beauty has the power to draw the soul towards you and make it sing in ecstasy: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

The breath of your Holy Spirit inspires artists, poets, scientists.

The power of your supreme knowledge makes them prophets and interpreters of your laws, who reveal the depths of your creative wisdom. Their works speak unwittingly of you.

How great are you in your creation! How great are you in man! Glory to You, showing your unsurpassable power in the laws of the universe.

Glory to You, for all nature is filled with your laws. Glory to You for what you have revealed to us in your mercy.

Glory to You for what you have hidden from us in your wisdom.

Glory to You for the inventiveness of the human mind. Glory to You for the dignity of man’s labor.

Glory to You for the tongues of fire that bring inspiration. Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

(Akathist: “Glory to God for All Things”, Prayer Book – In Accordance with the Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church , kindle Loc. 2642-54)

Autumn Colors (2)

48920980682_20f3745d5d

The Bible does not focus much on nature for nature’s sake.  Most often in Scripture, creation speaks to us about the Creator and nature serves God’s purposes, so it allows us to know what God intends or is doing.  I still find the autumn color change to be awesome, and  worthy of showcasing in photos (see also my post Autumn Colors 1).  I don’t have to travel far to see the beauty in creation.

48924672448_045dd7b6f5

Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the LORD; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.

(Psalms 96:12-13)

48920692071_31c1165607

So it towered high
above all the trees of the field;
its boughs grew large
and its branches long,
from abundant water in its shoots.
All the birds of the air
made their nests in its boughs;
under its branches all the animals of the field
gave birth to their young;
and in its shade
all great nations lived.

48924659568_b350b18d4b

It was beautiful in its greatness,
in the length of its branches;
for its roots went down
to abundant water.
The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it,
nor the fir trees equal its boughs;
the plane trees were as nothing
compared with its branches;
no tree in the garden of God
was like it in beauty.

48920844146_a552bd1cac

I made it beautiful
with its mass of branches,
the envy of all the trees of Eden
that were in the garden of God. 

(Ezekiel 31:5-9)

 

You can find all of my fall color photos at Autumn 2019.

Autumn Colors

48920922262_212187f3a4_w

The Bible doesn’t mention autumn very much nor our beloved fall color change.  In fact, trees are not overly featured in the scriptures.   They are treated as more utilitarian – mostly fruit trees are mentioned, but trees do give shade and wood as well.  Trees still are a favorite of mine and I’ve been out photographing the autumn color change.

48925159046_400521b188

The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good.   (Genesis 1:12)

48921036362_37d5211a01

On the first day you shall take  …  boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God…   (Leviticus 23:40)

48920265503_194c63a91c

Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever. 

(1 Chronicles 16:33-34)

48925212901_d656543131

All the trees of the field shall know
that I am the LORD.   (Ezekiel 17:24)

See also my post Autumn Colors (2).  You can find all of my fall color photos at my Flickr page: Autumn 2019.

 

The Faces of the Flock

48801734427_205fbcced8.jpg-width500-height271-altdsc_0505

“And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so.

48801183523_645c607489

48801687042_46dd0a93d2

And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the cattle according to their kinds, and everything that creeps upon the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. ”   (Genesis 1:24-25)

48801229678_5e9b60b84d

Genesis mentions God created the birds of the air, but there are also birds of the ground whose creation is not mentioned in the beginning of the Bible.  But then the Bible does not mention everything that exists, and in fact does not tell us everything we can know about creation.

48801749582_5192bc54d9

“So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the human to see what he would call them; and whatever the human called every living creature, that was its name. The human gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field…”  (Genesis 2:19-20)

48801539126_737b895756

48801254283_be0b30f881

According to Genesis, Adam got to name the animals and God who created the animals seems to have been interested in seeing what names the human might create for these newly formed creatures.  Was Adam more of the “Indian rhinoceros” mind or of the “Rhinoceros unicornis” mind or of the “greater one-horned rhinoceros” mind?  The Bible again doesn’t tell us, so we can imagine what we like.    Did he think “scimitar horned oryx” or was he more of a “Oryx dammah”  man?  “Sichuan takin” or “Budorcas taxicolor tibetana“?  God found joy and goodness not only in the animals God created but also in this human and in the names Adam created for God’s animals.   Humans were created to be creative – to share in God’s joy and to give God joy.

48801744797_f531c692db

Genesis 30:40 mentions “the faces of the flock” which Jacob cleverly uses to take advantage of his deceptive father-in-law Laban.   I think God’s flocks include all the animals God has made on earth – some of their faces are below:

48801727387_f6fbd5a0bb_m

48801224108_f1a3952559.jpg-width500-height333-altdsc_0449

48801708907_d41c068812

48801243898_90c7094fb9

All of the photos were taken in September 2019 at The Wilds of Ohio as I took time to visit and see the animals in the wild, though not in their native lands.  All look to God wherever they may be.

48801558351_eb8917921c

You can see all my photos from my 2 hour visit at The Wilds 2019 Photos.

48801586661_65cfde2a10

The Transcendent Myth

This is the 3rd and final post based on my reading of  John Breck’s short story, “A Life-giving Myth,” found in the book, THE LONG JOURNEY HOME.  The previous post is A Life-giving Myth (II).  This post is my taking Breck’s points from his short story and reworking them a bit and connecting his ideas to baptism.

Faith is the search for that language that can describe the relationship between heaven and earth, between God and humankind. It is a relationship which ordinary language is incapable of revealing and expressing. It is a relationship which though ethereal is not merely emotional. And so we rely on ritual and symbol to lead us beyond the limits of human language to put flesh on that which is spiritual. Ritual and symbol are the interface where our physical existence encounters and is transformed by that which is outside the physical, that existence which touches us and envelopes us and yet like flowing water is impossible to grasp.  Ritual, icons, poetry and symbol together enable us to express the narrative which guides our understanding of this world.

In the Old Testament, it is dogmatically clear that God has no form, that God is invisible and transcendent, and yet if God were completely invisible to us, we wouldn’t know of God’s existence at all. God created a world, a physical creation in which we creatures can encounter transcendence. God established a temple to help us experience God. Prayer, chant, icons and incense were all used to help the people experience this transcendent God but to experience God in this altered reality of symbol and ritual and even myth. The chant and the scent of the incense and the smoke wafting through the air are all there to remind us that we are encountering a reality which is physical and yet which cannot be adequately portrayed in language or in art because it is outside space and time.  The flickering candle reveals to us the immaterial world which is yet real.

In baptism, in the church in general, we are endeavoring to open our eyes, the eyes of faith, to transcendent reality, to Ultimate Truth, to the presence of eternity within our time and space, to lead us beyond the limits of space and time, and to the presence in creation and in our lives of an infinitely powerful and all-loving God.
We believe that every atom of our physical being and every movement of our heart is directed by God toward a goal: the goal of life beyond the physical existence, with a full participation in his own divine life.

This God who is ever inviting us to experience this goal, who created a world to allow us to in some mysterious way to experience the transcendent, then enters into our world in the incarnation. God thus not only knows ‘about’ our needs, our suffering and our destiny; God shares actively and decisively participates in them.
So God creates time and space, but God does not leave us to history or history to us. The transcendent God who exists in eternity, outside of space and time, enters into history and shares our history including the pain and sorrow of this worldly existence. He accepts our destiny, becoming one with us, part of the created order. God participates in what is happening in this world and what is going to happen to humanity, to the world and the cosmos. Everything that happens or that God allows to happen has an impact or an effect on God – in fact all of it impacts God!

So God in putting on flesh in the incarnation, takes on our history, and in so doing unites us to eternity. In baptism we put on Christ, we enter into the primordial waters of the Jordan River and become united to Christ and put on eternity. Everything begins in transcendence, in God, but God shares this life with a created order in which we can experience transcendence. God enters into the creation God made in order that we might be completely united to God.  Life in the Church – ritual, symbol, icon, poetic hymns – all point to the transcendent life which is just outside our empirical world, yet breaking into it. It becomes our way to experience the transcendent and to be transformed by God.

As Fr John Breck writes in his short story: “Eternity in fact is ever-present. it is not only beyond time and space, beyond the physical universe. It embraces and penetrates, so to speak, everything that exists, including ourselves.