day 19

Other incarnations, of course,

consonant with the environment

he finds himself in, animating the cells, 

sharpening the antennae,

becoming as they are

that they, in the transparency

of their shadows, in the filament

of their calculations, may,

in their own way, learn to confront

the intellect with its issue.

And his coming testified

to not by one star

arrested temporarily

over a Judaic manger

but by constellations innumerable

as dew upon surfaces

he has passed over time

and again, taking to himself

the first-born of the imagination

but without the age-old requirement of blood.

from ‘Incarnation’, Counterpoint (1990)

R.S. Thomas

Joan Chittister tells me (quoted at length below) that ‘we are about the project of finding life’.  I am all ‘about’ the project of pointing to moments of pause and revelation where the Presence Who is All might be found.  I am also ‘about’ the project of co-creating a more compassionate world in which others might flourish into their God-given potential, and find their own God-given purpose.  I am ‘about’ this project because God animated God’s own cells to be present in all things and in all people and in all places.  

Mark Longhurst cites Mennonite theologian Gordon Kaufman, “In the beginning was creativity, and the creativity was with God, and the creativity was God” (Kaufman, In the Beginning … Creativity), then he goes on to observe:

There’s something inherently creative about God, and about the universe, and God and the universe are not separate… If God is creativity, or if creativity is somehow inherent to God, and if this creative God has incarnated divine self in human, material life through Jesus in some way, then human and material life is divine. All of life is sacred. If God is manifest in our material, human reality, then that means that God is manifest and revealed in all of the arts. And not just the Christian arts. And not just the so-called beautiful or classic works of art, either.  In Jesus’ incarnation, life, death, and resurrection, God is revealed through all of human experience, which means that God is not only present in the typically beautiful or pretty things… All of the arts, and ultimately all of reality, is an invitation to encounter God’s presence in the death, life, fear, joy, ugliness, and beauty of our own lives and world.


Today I am being given the invitation to encounter God as Joy in every hue of every colour, seen and unseen, in light or in dark.  However bleak I am feeling, this invitation remains, because as Chittister (quoted at length below) reminds me:

There is a light in us that only darkness itself can illuminate.  It is the glowing calm that comes over us when we finally surrender to the ultimate truth of creation: that there is a God and we are not it.

No matter what my circumstances, or where I might be on the rollercoaster of my own emotional life, I am held safe to behold Emmanuel, God with us, in everything that comes before my heart today, in my here and in my now.

The sense of being stranded in the midst of life . . . is enough to drain a person’s very personality until there is little left to recognize. Where did the joy go all of a sudden? Where did the feeling of self-confidence disappear to in the midst of this emptiness? Just yesterday life was clear and vibrant. Today it is endlessly bleak. The darkness is unyielding. Nothing helps; nothing takes it away.

There is no light here, we think. But we think wrong.

There is a light in us that only darkness itself can illuminate. It is the glowing calm that comes over us when we finally surrender to the ultimate truth of creation: that there is a God and we are not it. . . . Then the clarity of it all is startling. Life is not about us; we are about the project of finding Life. At that moment, spiritual vision illuminates all the rest of life. And it is that light that shines in darkness.

Only the experience of our own darkness gives us the light we need to be of help to others whose journey into the dark spots of life is only just beginning. It’s then that our own taste of darkness qualifies us to be an illuminating part of the human expedition. Without that, we are only words, only false witnesses to the truth of what it means to be pressed to the ground and rise again…

It takes great humility to admit we have suffered through this kind of darkness, because it often sounds like a loss of faith to those who have not endured it. But when everything we thought we knew has turned to “nada,” in the language of John of the Cross, we actually become more loving and compassionate human beings, for we no longer rely on our own light but upon the Light of the world living within us.

Sister Joan Chittister, Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life (19-20)

creating from ‘nada’. Canon 7D. f3.5. 1/100. ISO 100.

Published by Kate Kennington Steer

writer, photographer and visual artist

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