I must confess. I’ve found it difficult seeing the light in 2021. No. The storming of the Capital by the people we defeated in 1945 is not light. Nor is the campaign to defeat them. Where is the light? Let me take a stab at it.
As some of you know, I have been praying the Hours since January 2020. Praying through the Psalms every week, along with the appointed chapters and passages from the Book of Common Prayer, introduced me to what first appeared to me to be a lot, too much, war-mongering. Since many of the Psalms were written by or with David in mind, and since over all of them hover the Exodus and conquest of the “promised land,” this martial theme is not unexpected. (World War I provoked haunting poetry. I have buried myself in WH Auden, among the most insightful poets of WWII, over the pandemic.)
Where is the light?
Let us suppose that the whole point of the Gospel only comes to light in its final chapter. Let us say that, like the disciples in Mark, we are all duller than door knobs. Like Pharisees (or Sadducees) we come, raise our objections or ask our questions, and it really doesn’t hit us.
Wars and rebellions are smoldering. Sedition is rife. To me it feels like I am living in the middle of the Psalms. I don’t know how it ends.
Here is what I know, even before opening the cover of the New Testament. I know that God is on the side of the widow, the poor, the orphan, the outcast, the immigrant, the homeless, the hungry, the sick, and the naked. That much is clear from the Hebrew sacred text. I also know that the well-graduated, the wealthy, the secure, the initiated, the housed, the well-fed, the healthy, and the stylish — the powerful — are ready to do everything they can to secure and protect their ground. They have what the Psalmist calls a “deceitful tongue.” They will lie and deceive to secure and protect what they have. The children of darkness are in this unto death.
In case anyone doubted before January 6 — Epiphany — that the children of darkness are in war against us, that they are using real weapons, that they mean to kill us, that ship (I hope) has sailed. The nations have seen a great light.
Epiphany, this year, perhaps all years, is a promise that reaches us from a distant shore. It says: God is still here. She is fighting on our side. She has appeared, not in Jerusalem, not in the Temple, but in (of all places) Galilee. She has not placed her bets with the Roman occupation, not with the collaborators, not with the racists, misogynists, nationalists, and patriots. The Zoroastrians from the East tell us at least that much.
But, we already knew that before we knew anything about Bethlehem or Galilee or Golgotha. But we did not see the light. We did not hear the word. We did not follow the signs. Then as now.
Where is the light? Do you see it?