I think my favorite phrase in the Nicene Creed is “light from light.” It’s not just a poetic way to say that God is brilliant (well, maybe it is a poetic way to say that, but it’s so much more than that as well). God is not only the light by which we apprehend God, truth, love, life; God is also the creator of physical light (the pure wave/particle energy that our eyes feast on, and indeed even our skin and our psyches — seasonal affective disorder recognizes that not enough light can lead to depression) and, perhaps most important of all, God is the light beyond light, the truth beyond truth, the being beyond being, the essence beyond existence. God, so it is said, “dwells in unapproachable light,” but the creed suggests that God is unapproachable light.
When I was a little boy my parents always stressed the transcendence of God; God was far away. Thunder would rumble overhead and they’d say, “It’s the angels, bowling up in heaven.” So the angels were “up there,” and God was even beyond the angels. Eventually I came to see that this was a very limited way to think about God, for it denied the nearness, the closeness, the knit-into-all-things-ness of God. But I think maybe today’s generation is suffering from the opposite problem: we tell our children how close God is to them, that they are one with God, that we see God when we look into each other’s eyes. And that’s just as true as the idea that God is beyond the beyond. But we need both. We need to wrap our feeble little minds around both the ideas that in him we live and move and have our being — God is closer to us than we are to ourselves — and also that God is truly, wholly, uncapturably “other” to us, greater than the greatest, lighter than the lightest, higher than the highest, more Sovereign that the most sovereign. Only when we hold both God’s immanence and God’s transcendence do we even begin to lay the groundwork for a mystical life.