God’s Spirit Hovering Over the Waters

One of the Old Testament readings for the feast of Theophany is Genesis 1:1-13 which describes the first three days of creation.  St. Basil the Great comments on verse 2 of Genesis 1:

“ ‘And the spirit of God,’ he says, ‘was stirring above the waters.’  (Genesis 1:2)

If this spirit means the diffusion of the air, understand that the author is enumerating to you the parts of the world, saying that God created the heavens, the earth, water, and air; and this latter was spreading and flowing. Or, what is truer and approved by those before us, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of God, because it has been observed that It alone and specially was considered worthy by the Scripture of such mention, and there is named no other Spirit of God than the Holy Spirit which forms an essential part of the divine and blessed Trinity. Admitting this meaning, you will find the advantage from it great.

How, then, was It stirring above the waters? I will tell you an explanation, not my own, but that of a Syrian who was as far removed from worldly wisdom as he was near the knowledge of truth. Now, he claimed that the language of the Syrians was more expressive and because of its resemblance to the Hebrew language approached somewhat more closely to the sense of Scripture; therefore, the meaning of the statement was as follows. As regards the verb ‘was stirring above,’ they interpret in preference to that, he says, ‘warmed with fostering care,’ and he endued the nature of the waters with life through his comparison with a bird brooding upon eggs and imparting some vital power to them as they are being warmed.

Some such meaning, they say, was implied by this word, as if the Spirit were warming with fostering care, that is, was preparing the nature of water for the generation of living beings. Therefore, from this there is sufficient proof for the inquiries of certain men that the Holy Spirit is not wanting in the creative power.” ( The Fathers of the Church: Exegetic Homilies, pp 30-31)

St. Basil turns to philology to help understand the imagery of the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters – he is told that in the Syrian language the words imply by this hovering over the waters a image more that of a mother bird nesting on her eggs to warm them and to bring them to birth.  The Holy Spirit is seen as in some manner vivifying the inanimate waters so that they creatively bring forth life.  God is able from inanimate matter to bring forth life.

From Incarnation to Encryption

And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”  (Genesis 1:3)

Twenty-first Century man measures: “And how many kilobytes of information is that?”

I am fascinated by the modern notion that everything that happens in the universe can be understood, measured and stored as data.  James Gleick in the 8 July 2011 issue of DISCOVER magazine writes:

“The universe, by existing, registers information … by evolving in time, it processes information.”

The existence of the entire universe and all its activity from a macro- to micro- level can measured as information.  Quantum engineer Seth Lloyd of MIT says to date everything that has occurred in the universe, down to every activity of every particle amounts to about 1090 bits of information.  Our entire universe is now quantifiable in numbers which can be crunched in countless ways through computers.

In 1948, the transistor was born in Bell Telephone Labs.  This is the same year, according to Gleick that elsewhere in the Bell Labs, Claude Shannon wrote a a mathematical theory of communication.  It is his thinking which began the conversion of the universe to a measurable form which could then be manipulated through computers.

1951 brought us the concept of the kilobit.  In 1972 thanks to the engineers at IBM whose hardware processed information in 8-bit pieces, we came to our term the byte.   Soon we were speaking in terms of the megabyte, 8 million bits.  By 1991 ever grander terms were needed to name the amount of information being handled – thus the zettabyte (1021 bytes) and the yottabyte (1024 bytes).

Gleick reports that in 1970 a computer with a megabyte of memory could be purchased for $4,674,160 and it took an entire room to hold the necessary transitors.  By 1982, a megabyte could be held on one circuit board costing $36,000.  By 2010, a terabyte (1000 gigabytes) disk drive which fits into the palm of your hand was selling for $100.00.

Digitalizing Our Selves

My lifetime spans approximately the age of the kilobyte to the cheap terabyte.  I am utterly fascinated by how information theory combined with mathematics has made our digital world possible.  I continue to be amazed by a technology that I generally resist.  But now I travel with laptop (my oldest technology!), tablet, cell phone, GPS and digital camera.  A world which did not exist when I was born now accompanies me wherever I go.

The theology of the incarnation contemplates the mystery of God becoming flesh.  Information theory digitalizes all of reality into bits and bytes and opens to us many other mysteries of the universe – but it does not change empirical reality into bytes, but only can re-image all of creation in an electronic form.   It is a de-incarnation of reality re-imagining it all as information stored in digital form.   It has however allowed theory to be worked out in computers which then translates into the creation of new ideas, models, and products.

See also my blog:  Knowledge and Wisdom, Fact and Truth

Christmas (2004)

Sermon notes from the Feast of the Nativity of Christ (2004)

In the beginning God said: “Let there be light.”

God speaks (His Word) and the visible (Light) comes into existence.

God’s spoken Word can be seen, allows us to see, makes sight possible.

Even before anything else existed, even before anything was to be seen, God speaks light into existence.    The Light of God existed before there was anything to shine on – to be seen.   Even before anyone else was there to see, God’s light existed, and the ability to see pre-existed before any humans were there to see.

And today as we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the feast of the Word of God becoming flesh – that is how John in his Gospel describes the birth of Christ.

Again God’s spoken Word, just like in the beginning, at creation,  is made to be seen, is Light.

God’s Word is that which is to be seen, allows us to see, makes sight possible

God’s Word allows us to see and know God, and makes visible that which before was before invisible.   For in Christmas we  begin to see that God is Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Christmas is more than the sentimental story of a baby being born into poverty.

It is symbolically the same story of God saying “Let there be light”

It is in reality the story of the Word becoming visible, incarnate, physical, flesh.

It is God speaking the Word into visible existence, or the visible itself  into existence.

Our God does not put us either into non-existence or into darkness.

God is the giver of life and light, of light and existence, not of darkness or non-existence.

God spoke into the non-existence and said “Let there be light” and the Word became flesh.  God speaks us into being, and overcomes the darkness, and gives us the light which knows no end.

God speaks at the beginning of creation and light comes into existence, but that isn’t enough for God, for not only does He will light into existence, He wills that His Word, His Light become flesh. The spiritual, life itself becomes increasingly incarnate and manifest, light becoming increasingly physical and human. Jesus Christ is the light of evening, the Light of the World, He is both Light and Life, and we see in Him God’s plan, will, and intention. 

God’s Word evolves from Light, to life, to human flesh. And in this we understand, the Light of God is not opposed to being human, but is its intention and destiny: God’s will and plan. God’s Word is not opposed to the flesh, but becomes incarnate – the Word becoming the flesh, and the flesh revealing the Word.

Christ is who and what God intended and intends for each of us to be.

God took on human nature – became enfleshed, incarnate so that humanity could be again united to God.    Light became flesh so that God would always be visible to us. 

The Word becomes flesh so that we might be able to see God not just with the eyes of our hearts but with the eyes of our flesh. So that we can once again see what God spoke from the beginning – the Light He called into being before there was any sun or stars. In Christ we can see that Light once again.

This is why the greeting “Christ is born!” contains such a powerful message.   We are affirming our conviction that God has indeed entered the world, entered the darkness in order to give us light and life.

One small aside – today we also remember the Magi who came to see the newborn Christ child.  These wise men use the physical light (the star) in order to search for and find the Spiritual light, which God spoke into existence on the first day of creation.

God Questions His Creation: Genesis 11:10-32 (c)

See: God Questions His Creation:  Genesis 11:10-32 (b)

Genesis 11:10 These are the descendants of Shem. When Shem was a hundred years old, he became the father of Arpach’shad two years after the flood;  …  26 When Terah had lived seventy years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran. 27 Now these are the descendants of Terah. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. 28 Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chalde’ans. 29 And Abram and Nahor took wives; the name of Abram’s wife was Sar’ai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30 Now Sar’ai was barren; she had no child. 31 Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sar’ai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chalde’ans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there.

This section of Genesis brings us to the birth of Abram, whom many consider to be the father of the great monotheistic religions:  Judaism, Christianity and Islam.   Genesis offers that overarching metanarrative which ties all of humanity together.  It is a story that helps define our common human nature.  We are all part of God’s great unfolding narrative, and it is His story which gives our lives and our individual stories meaning.  Many think that at the beginning of the 21st Century, the philosophical outlook which shapes our current understanding of the world is “postmodernism.”  While the ideas of postmodernism are complex, as a philosophy it seems to accept the notion that there is no real way to “measure” the truth or validity of any story, since each person’s life experience is true to them and can’t be measured against any standard or canon as any one story is as true and valid as any other from the point of view of each person.   Postmodernism would say everyone’s story is true and right from some perspective and it would deny there is a shared human nature or shared human story to tie us all together.   This philosophy is a theory of intellectual and moral relativity.  As in the theory of relativity in physics, “truth” is limited to the vantage point of the observer – time and space are all relative to the position, speed and direction of the observer.  “Perception” of an event is completely shaped by one’s position relative to the event.  Any one perception can be true for that observer but others seeing the same event from other positions relative to the event will see the event differently and yet their perception will be true for them.  

In postmodernism we may all share the same planet, but our lives relative to one another are not all that connected.  There is no one perspective that is the correct perspective and so truth, right, wrong, good and evil vary from person to person.  A movie which captures this quite well is the 2005 movie, CRASH.  In that movie all of the characters live in the same city and their lives are tied together by a series of otherwise random events.  However, despite being tied together by these events, none of  the characters are aware of their connection to the others – only the viewer of the movie has the perspective of how they are all tied together.  But for the characters, their lives are a series of accidental “crashes” into one another.  The movie suggests that individuals longing for feeling some connection to others – longing to be sprung from the isolation and alienation of extreme individualism  – “crash” into each other, sometimes intentionally just to feel alive or to get some sense that they belong to something greater than themselves.  

In certain ways this postmodern thinking is an intellectual Darwinism where all events that happen are ultimately random not giving direction to life, not serving any purpose, but definitely shaping present experience and the future of humanity.  Like Darwinism, postmodernism, denies teleology (the idea that life purposefully moves toward some conclusion or end).  The Bible certainly accepts teleology – there is a purposeful beginning to humankind and there is a God who is guiding the world and this God has a plan for the world which includes an ending toward which God is guiding things.  The Bible offers the beginnings of the story, shapes the direction we are headed in, and offers some specific thoughts about how it all will end.  In postmodern terms, the Bible offers a meta-narrative, a story that ties together all peoples, all lives, and all human stories.  It is not one person’s story, it is rather the story of everybody,  a story that shows our common humanity and which ties together all the individual stories of humans.  It is a story with a purpose, in which it is possible to discern right and wrong, good and evil, beginning and end.  

Each life is important, not random, and not meaningless.  Even the use of typology or a prototype within the biblical narrative (that one story can somehow foreshadow a later story and help us recognize and understand later stories) argues against pure postmodernism.  Figurative thinking and symbolic thinking help us recognize patterns in life – they help us make sense of past historical events, they help us to recognize the significance of current events.  They help us realize each life is not totally unrelated to all other lives. Each life contributes to the bigger picture, the tapestry or mosaic or narrative.  No one life is self contained, no one life can measure the worth of all other things, because every life is part of a bigger whole, which is purposeful.  Each life and each person’s story will get measured and evaluated in terms of this bigger narrative, and it is this bigger picture which offers meaning to each life, no matter how great, how long, how short. 

The important insight of monotheism is that there is a meta-narrative; there is a way to understand all the individual stories, even if we can’t fully grasp that meta-story yet – even if there is mystery, even if there are unresolved contradictions in the Scriptures which contain the revelation of this one God.  The Bible contains in a written form the known elements of this revelation, and it gives us perspective on life, gives direction to life, gives meaning to life.  The Bible also tells us that the world is confusing, and at times every bit as uncertain as postmodernism would affirm.  The Bible does show us that events do occur which from our limited human perspective do appear to be random, unfair, inexplicable, and ambiguous.  

The Bible does take perspective – it traces history and humanity through particular peoples’ lives, and does not pretend to be neutral or objective, but rather is either biased or ambivalent or both.   Perhaps the most postmodern event in the Bible is when God creates light in Genesis 1:3.   There was light – it had no source, no direction, it simply was.  There existed no perspective in that verse, it is all about simply being.  And since nothing else existed it had no direction, no goal, no purpose, and no movement.  Even Einstein’s relativity didn’t exist in that event for light was all.  

Adam & Eve

The Bible however doesn’t end with this directionless and perspectiveless light.  That light serves to connect and illumine all else that exists.   The Bible says this is the truth of humanity as well – we each are not merely individuals, but we are communal beings.   We are created to be in communion with God and with each other.  We are by nature beings of love (meaning we are by nature oriented toward others).  Genesis tells us in narrative form the story of each of us and any of us and all of us.  It reveals to us our humanness and thus our interdependency on all else that exists.  It helps us realize there is a way, a direction, and it tells us we have lost that way, but it is still available for us to find.  Genesis helps put us on that right path.   Even the ambiguities in the story and the contradictions tell us we need to find a better perspective to understand what is.  That gives us purpose, motivation, and direction – we need to move to that new perspective.  And the Scriptures will help us find that way.

Next: God Questions His Creation:  Genesis 11:10-32 (d)

God Questions His Creation: Genesis 6:13-16 (a)

See:  God Questions His Creation: Genesis 6:11-12 (b)

Genesis 6:13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and set the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks.

The Word Proclaimed. Are we listening?

The Righteous man Noah learns about God and about righteousness not by reading any book, but by listening to the voice of God (for the Scriptures had not been written in Noah’s day, but are put to writing only much later – if we follow the Bible’s telling, in the time of Moses).   This God who speaks remains a mystery, but His Word and voice are revealed to Noah.  The God who remains transcendent speaks so that the righteous man can hear His Word.  This is how God first revealed Himself in Genesis 1:3 – through His voiced Word.  Listening to God’s Word, not reading it, was the initial and primary way to come to know God and God’s will for His chosen people.  St. Isaac the Syrian (d. 700) wrote:  “As long as our nature possessed a pure heart, God had no need to speak to us through the composition of writings, but He spoke to us as He did to Noah, Abraham, Job and Moses without the intermediary of a book.  But because our nature fell into an abyss of evils, God spoke with us through writings on tablets of stone, a sign of the hardness of our hearts.”  St. Isaac suggests that the reason we have Scriptures is because of sin and our hearts hardening against God.  Scripture was not the way God wanted to convey His Word to us, but to what He resorted when our hearts hardened against Him.   In the fullness of time God acted for our salvation – the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  The Word did not become a book.  The book only witnesses to the Word.

In the story, God tells Noah to build an ark, which is the first time the word “ark” appears in the text.  It is something of a mystery as to how Noah would have understood God if in fact God was speaking about something Noah had never encountered.  In the story of Adam naming the animals (Genesis 2), we are not told how Adam created the names.  How did he make up the animal’s names?   How many words did he even know?  How would these names have formed in his mind?  Did the author of the text assume that language and words are innate – from the time we are born our brains have full vocabularies and Adam just drew from this God-given inborn knowledge?  Or did he assume that somehow Adam seeing things for the first time had new names pop into his brain?   Genesis is giving us a glimpse into how the ancients understood the mind or conceived the formation of language.  And in the story of the ark as well as in Adam’s naming of the animals, the Bible presupposes that the mind has all it needs to form new words – it doesn’t need the help or influence of ancestors, society, or even a revelation from God.

When the invisible God speaks to Noah, somehow he “hears” the voice even though there is no one there speaking to him.   How does Noah conclude “this is God speaking to me?”   If the “voice” simply is in his head (there is no form to see outside of himself), how does Noah determine the source of the voice?   At least when St. Paul heard Christ speak to him, he asked, “who are you, Lord?” (Acts 9:5).    Noah never asks who is speaking to him, he simply obeys.    This invisible God speaks to Noah about something which Noah did not know – an ark.  So how did an image form in his brain?  How did He know what he was to build?  The mystery of the relationship of the mind to the brain is much like the mystery of the soul to the body, and of God to man.

“God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to…’”  The Prophet Amos tells us, “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (3:7).   God reveals His intention and plan to His servant Noah. The flood is not going to come upon the entire earth unannounced.   The very purpose of the flood is to reveal God and His holy will, not merely to punish or destroy.   God is not capricious, but gracious.   The Wisdom of Solomon declares this truth about God:  “Do not invite death by the error of your life, nor bring on destruction by the works of your hands; because God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things that they might exist, and the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them; and the dominion of Hades is not on earth. For righteousness is immortal. But ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death…”  (Wisdom 1:12-16).  Clearly in Wisdom bringing about a flood which destroys all life goes against the very nature of God and His creation.  The flood story is not portraying a natural disaster but truly a unnatural act of a heartsick Creator.

God speaks to Noah, and despite Comedian Bill Cosby’s retelling of the story, Noah never speaks to God or asks a question.  Noah listens and Noah obeys, but He never addresses God.  In fact no word of his is recorded until after the flood.   Noah is a man of few words but great action.

“…for the earth is filled with violence through them…”   God commanded the humans to fill the earth and subdue it (Genesis 1), and the humans have filled the earth with violence and destruction.

Next:  God Questions His Creation: Genesis 6:13-16 (b)

Jesus said, “YOU are the light of the world.”

A sermon from  13 January 2002

“The Land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.”   (Matthew 4:15-16)

Sunrise“God said, ‘let there be light’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and morning, the first day.”  (Genesis 1: 3)

On the first day of creation, God creates Light, day and night. According to Genesis this was 3 days before God created the sun, the moon or the stars for these celestial bodies were not created until the 4th day of creation. God creates light without the sun and God creates day and night without the sun.

God drives back the darkness which covered the face of the earth, and since that beginning of creation there has always been light upon the earth.

How then did the Prophet Isaiah say that there was a people who sat in darkness when God had already created the light? And how is it that the Evangelist Matthew saw the coming of Christ as the dawning of light if light had already existed for thousands of years?

Gospel2Because LIGHT is not limited to its literal meaning.   

Indeed as quantum mechanics shows light to have both the properties of matter and energy and thus defies being limited to one or the other, so even the word “light” has meaning beyond the literal. We speak in the church of Baptism being holy illumination. We speak of Jesus being the light of evening. Light comes to us in many forms.

Recently scientists discovered some cave etchings thought to be 77,000 years old. These drawings showed human ancestors had some symbolic thinking capabilities already at that time. As scientists see it, the dawn of mankind occurred that long ago and man has been progressing as evolution unfolds into a being capable of greater abstract thought, greater problem solving skills, greater intelligence. Humankind has become more enlightened in terms of intelligence, and yet a darkness remains.

Knowledge of God is revelation from God – another enlightenment. The light and darkness of the world have been thought of symbolically by humans for millennia.

John, the Evangelist and Theologian, wrote of Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (1:5) “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.” (3:19)

ChristIcon2Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

We can have all the light that this world has to offer – knowledge, intelligence, or sunshine, but without God, we still will be in that darkness which sunshine cannot drive away. Jesus came into the world to bring us the knowledge of God. This is a light that we will not find by studying science or books. It is an enlightenment which reveals to us that there are other realms than just the physical world. Science can study the physical world and all about it, but science cannot study the light which comes from God. But it is this light which comes from God which makes us to be fully human.

The light which God created before there was a sun, which battles the darkness which overshadows the hearts and minds of mankind on the sunniest days, is given to us to give to others. For Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” (Matt 5:14) God does not withhold this light from us and say, “spend your whole life searching for that which is beyond your grasp.” Rather God not only brings us to the light, He allows us to become that light.

My friends, this gift of light was given to each of us at our baptism. Use the light to enlighten others. Use the light to do what St. Paul taught us in his epistle to the Ephesians – “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12).     It is so easy to tear down. It is so easy to point out the faults of others. It is so easy to criticize, condemn and complain about others, about the parish, about the church. But if that is all that we have to offer, we live in darkness. Become a light to the world, to the parish, to your family. Let the knowledge of God shine in you so that others too can see the work of God, His love and His salvation. Jesus did not teach you to criticize others, to condemn others, to complain about others. Jesus said to you, “Be the light to the world.” Amen.

“Seeing” with our Ears is Believing

Being a person with little training in music or the arts of any kind (I never took a music class after 7th grade until I had my one semester of music at seminary), the world of art and music remains to my perception a foreign language – I have a hard time recognizing the patterns of meaning that others so appreciate (see my blog Let There be Light).   When viewing art or listening to music I feel the scriptural words are fulfilled:  “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive” (Matthew 13:14).

resoundingtruthI found the Mars Hill Audio Journal interview “Patterns of Musical Meaning” with Jeremy Begbie, a musician and Duke University theology professor (Number 94, Nov/Dec 2008) to be most intriguing.  The interview inspired me to purchase Begbie’s new book RESOUNDING TRUTH: CHRISTIAN WISDOM IN THE WORLD OF MUSIC, which I am now reading with great interest (and will comment on the book in a future blog).   Among the things that host Ken Myers and Jeremy Begbie discussed which caught my attention and imagination:

Culture is the ordering of meaning, providing a framework of understanding of the world around us.   Christian culture seeks to perceive the meaning to be found in God’s creation.  In this thinking any form of art is about the discovery of order and meaning in the universe.  (The Akathist, “Glory to God for All Things,” says, “The breath of Your Holy Spirit inspires artists, poets and 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.”)    Artists see and help us see things and to perceive meaning that are not immediately obvious to us, but they help us make connections which enable us to “see”.   Begbie offered the quote, “Love achieves its creativity by being perceptive.”     That is the job of the artist and the poet and the scientists – to be perceptive enough to see patterns and meaning and truth in the world around us.  It is also what “wisdom” contributes to the spiritual life – not law but understanding the world to know the when, why, where and how to apply the teachings of Christ. 

The main idea of Begbie’s which I found most provocative was his sense of how music is a different way of “seeing” the world.  When we see the world with our eyes alone, space takes on a certain meaning –  we can see only one thing in a given space, and anything that occupies one space is not present in the rest of space.   But with music one “sees” space in a totally different way.  For in music, though one note fills the space around us, we still can add more notes to the same space and yet still perceive the different notes at the same time in the same “heard” space.  He gave several examples of this and I will only mention the sympathetic resonance – where a note is played with the same note one octave lower – the sounds do not cancel each other out but in fact magnify each other. 

Begbie offers this characteristic of music – the ability for more than one thing to fill a space at the same time and still be clearly perceived – as an alternative way to understand how an omnipotent God can allow His creatures to have free will.  If our only way of “seeing” the universe is visually, we cannot understand how we can be free beings and have an omnipotent God.  But if we “see” the world in the “heard space” of music, we come to understand how this is possible.  Sympathetic resonance gives us a clue.  God’s freedom doesn’t oppose or replace ours.  God’s freedom and ours can enhance/resonate with one another and even increase the freedom for us to be who we are. 

If we only perceive visually we cannot see how God’s activity in the world can be consistent with ideas of human freedom – since visually only one thing can occupy any given space.  Music however gives us a model to re-image or re-imagine how freedom might work.   It also allows us to “see” better the Trinity – how the Three Persons can share the One divine nature – for as in music any “space” can be occupied by more than one note or Person even when that “space” was completely filled by the first.

Myers called harmony singing “a parable of what it is to be free” – for voices singing in harmony are each freely following their own path, and yet together they make beautiful music.   It is also an image of how Christian are to help one another – working in harmony to build up the church by having each freely use the gifts God’s Spirit has bestowed sunriseupon him or her.

“Seeing” the universe through music seems so appropriate for Christians.  For in the beginning, when God spoke there was light (Genesis 1:3).   It is not sound but light which God’s spoken word brought into existence.   We see space and time visually but we also need to “see” the “heard” space and time if we are going to use all of the senses with which God has blessed us to discover the meaning He has implanted in the cosmos.

See also my blog Resounding Truth: Music and the Flourishing of Humankind

The Transfiguration of Christ & the Creation of Light

In Matins this morning for the Transfiguration, I was taken by the relationship of light and sound at the Transfiguration as recorded in Matthew 17:1-9.  Peter, James and John taken apart from the other disciples by Jesus suddenly see the light emanating from Christ:  Jesus’ “face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.”     As stunning a scene as that may have been, it is not until the Father speaks, “This is my beloved Son… listen to him,” that the three disciples are terrified and fall down on their faces in absolute fear.   They were able to see the sight but are knocked off their feet when they hear God speak.

Were they perhaps experiencing in some manner what Genesis 1:3 reports ?

And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

 The voice of God, His Word, creates the light which shines even though the sun has not yet been created in Genesis 1.  It is the voice of God which is so powerfully creative.    God’s Voice/Word creates light, but it is not the light, it is the Voice/Word which sweeps the disciples off their feet.  

Standing outside in the sunlight on the top of a mountain as the disciples were doing, it would take a pretty significant light to outshine the sun and capture the attention of the disciples.  And that is the kind of light they saw; the light shining forth from the transfigured Christ is not sunlight but the light God called into existence as the first creative act of the Creator. 

How mighty and fearful is the vision seen today! 

The visible sun shone from heaven,

but from the earth shone incomparably upon Mount Tabor

The spiritual Sun of Righteousness.        (Matins Canon Canticle 6)

The matins hymns reflect the mystery which the three apostles saw:

The invisible has no become visible to the apostles:

The Godhead shone out before them in the flesh.  (Canticle 7)

Christ was fully visible to the disciples, but now suddenly they see in Him something which had been hidden from their eyes: His transfigured appearance reveals what is always true about Christ but not always visible, even to His select followers.

The unheard of has now been heard,

For the Sun who came forth from the Virgin without a father,

Receives glorious testimony from His Father’s voice

That He is both God and man, throughout all ages.  (Matins Canticle 7)

There was no one to hear the voice of God the Father when He first spoke light into existence in Genesis 1.   But now the disciples looking at this light hear the voice of God!  “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,”  (1 Corinthians 2:9).    The transfiguration of Christ was indeed prepared for those who love him.  And the disciples saw and heard what God had prepared for humanity from the beginning:  “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

For other blogs on the Transfiguration see my Tablets of Stone: Do Not Petrify the Word of God, The Transfiguration of the Son of God:  Listen to Him,  The Transfiguration:  Man Fulfilling His Mission  and Feast Days: Signs of God’s Coming Kingdom