whole: Sunday 4

Let us sit in this moment

of God’s creating.

Rest in its uniqueness;

savor its potential.

It is pregnant

with new possibilities

waiting to be born,

God’s secrets not yet heard,

God’s dreams not yet seen,

God’s visions not yet realised.

Let us sit and look and listen.

Breathe in the fragrance 

of its unfolding.

Stand in awe at its beauty.

Rejoice in its complex patterns.

Let us sit and imagine

new ideas waiting

for creative expression.

And join God in the creating.

(‘Rest in the Moment’, The Gift of Wonder, Christine-Aroney-Sine (123))



In The Life of Moses Gregory of Nyssa wrote that darkness is ‘perceived to be contrary to religion’, yet the more a contemplative mind practices contemplation (what Gregory calls ‘apprehend[ing] reality’) the less one comes to know of God, because:

[one] sees more clearly that God cannot be contemplated. For leaving behind everything that is observed, not only what sense comprehends but also what the intelligence thinks it sees, it keeps on penetrating deeper until by the intelligence’s yearning for understanding it gains access to the invisible and the incomprehensible and there it sees God.  This is the true knowledge of what is sought; this is the seeing that consists in not seeing, because that which is sought transcends all knowledge, being separated on all sides by incomprehensibility as by a kind of darkness. 

Gregory concludes that when Moses ‘approached the dark cloud where God was’, he could declare that he had seen God in the darkness because ‘he had then come to know that what is divine is beyond all knowledge and comprehension’.  Gregory calls this the 

‘luminous darkness’.

In the luminous darkness I am known.  

In the luminous darkness I can know.

In the luminous darkness I am seen. 

In the luminous darkness I can see.

Religion passes out of the ken of Reason only where the eye of Reason has reached its own Horizon; and that Faith is then but its continuation: even as the Day softens away into the sweet Twilight, and Twilight, hushed and breathless, steals into Darkness.  It is Night, sacred Night!  The upraised Eye views only the starry Heaven which manifests itself alone: and the outward Beholding is fixed on the sparks twinkling in the aweful [sic] depth, though Suns of other Worlds, only to preserve the Soul steady and collected in its pure Act of inward Adoration to the great I AM. (from Biographica Literaria, Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

This is the grace of beholding the Holy: the luminous darkness brings me the opportunity of beholding the Holy in whatever ordinary moment I am in.  As Samuel Wells comments, 


this moment, this place, this person – is the site of encounter, the resting place, the angle of repose, the occasion for genuine worship.’ (A Nazareth Manifesto, (140)(original emphasis))

It is here, in all these occasions of luminous darkness, where I am called to give voice to astonishment (Annie Dillard, see Sunday 3). It is here, beholding the Holy –  face to face – in this luminous darkness – now- where I can know again that ‘here am I today/My task is to live’ (Liturgy of Wholeness, see Sunday 1).

“I saw that he saw” 

~ Jehuda Zwi

Your eyes, O my beloved

Were the eyes of a hind,

With pupils of long rainbows

As when storms of God are gone – 

Bee-like the centuries stored there

The honey of God’s nights,

Last sparks of Sinai’s fires – 

O you transparent doors

To the inner realms,

Over which so much desert sand lies,

So many miles of torment to reach Him – 

O you lifeless eyes

Whose power of prophecy has fallen

Into the golden astonishments of the Lord,

Of which we know only the dreams.

‘Your eyes, O my beloved’ 

Nelly Sachs (tr. by Ruth and Matthew Mead)

this luminous dark. (iPhone image)

Published by Kate Kennington Steer

writer, photographer and visual artist

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