The Light Of Grace Shines Upon All Creation

The Light Of Grace Shines Upon All Creation September 5, 2021

No photographer listed: Light In Space Shining on the Earth and the Moon /pxhere

God, acting with a great and transcendent love for all,  shines the light of grace upon all creation. And yet, in our temporal existence, we often find ourselves often surrounded by the darkness, and this is due to sin. Nonetheless, if we embrace it, the radiant light of God can enter our lives so that we may be being guided by it. Then, hopefully, we will cooperate with it so that we can then be perfected by it, so that in such perfection, we will can and will be deified by it. For we are to become gods by such grace. Nonetheless, since it is by grace and not nature, we are united with God through grace so that the divine nature will continue to transcend us. But it is important for us to remember all this happens due to God’s grace, and not by ourselves, so that when enlightenment comes to us, it comes from the transcendent power of God:

For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us (2 Cor. 4:6-7 RSV).

God is the transcendent, incomprehensible One which comprehends all things. God acts with creation in and through one eternal activity which we experience as a plurality, that is it appears God works with us in a variety of ways, and in each of those ways, we are granted the possibility of receiving particular forms of grace.  That grace is given to all and is found throughout all temporal history so that we can unite with it and become a means by which the light of God shines in history. Thus, even in the midst of pain and sorrow, God’s light continues to shine and offer us enlightenment; if we empty ourselves from all distractions, from all the thoughts and passions which impede our reception of grace and our ability to perceive its effects in our lives, we will be able to sense the glory of God within us. this is how we will be able to experience, at least in part, the glory of the resurrection while we still involved with history. This is not to deny the pains and sorrows of temporal existence, for they remain, and they remain a problem for us to encounter, a challenge for us to overcome through love and grace. Paul, thus, understood that there was a paradox involved here, where we can be and will be filled with grace and receive all kinds of glory through it while we still find ourselves suffering in and through our historical existence:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death is at work in us, but life in you (2 Cor. 4:8-12 RSV).

Paul knew that as long as we live out our earthly life, we will experience hardships, we will experience sorrows, indeed, we will often be grieved. We will find this happening to us time and time again. And yet in the midst of all the pain and sorrow, in the midst of all the tragedies of life, we have the potential to sense the greater glory of the kingdom of God. Grace allows this to happen. We must cooperate with grace to activate it and bring with it the glories which it can and will provide to us. Thus grace allows us to experience our earthly life, with all its sorrows, without being broken down and destroyed by it. This is not to say we will not mourn, we will not wonder why things happen as they do, or that we will not wish for things to be different, for we will. Nonetheless, we will experience all our hardships in the light of grace, grace which unites us with Jesus. We will experience it all in our union with Jesus, so that we will experience with him the pains and sorrows of earthly existence which is finalized in death, but also, we will experience in and through him the resurrection, and with it, we will know that there is a limit to all the pain and sorrow which we might experience even as there will be no limit to the glory which we can receive. And so, even when we suffer, we find Jesus is with us, that our pain and sorrow is connected with his pain and sorrow, indeed, that in Jesus the pain and sorrow of all creation is joined together so that it can be overcome, providing the means by which the glory of God can be found in all things, raising them up and enlightening them: “If Christ redeems and raises every person, then it is only because he co-dies in every person and with every person. It therefore follows that Christ, glorified and sitting at the right hand of the Father, even now suffers and dies with the humanity whose collective suffering and dearth he once took upon himself and exhausted on Golgotha.” [1]

We are struggling for the kingdom of God while also, thanks to grace, we are within it and have it within us. In the midst of all the struggles, that is, when we journeying along the path to the resurrection ourselves, we must remember that we are already a part of the kingdom, that the path is itself not outside of the kingdom of God. Grace is the light on the path, revealing the way for us, even as it renders us the glory of the kingdom to us.

Christ’s work is universal; he unites with all things (not just humanity), embracing them with love. Christ reveals God’s universal love for creation. God created all things and saw them as good. God loves all things for the goodness which is in them. Through that love, God gave creation freedom to develop itself. That is, God gave created subjects space to be what they wanted to be so that they would not be mere objects of the divine will. Then, out of love, God also gave to all creation the light of grace so that if and when someone found themselves far from what they desired, far from the good and the glory of the good, because of how they established themselves through their actions, they could still find a way back to God. Indeed, they would find that God was always there, waiting for them, willing to elevate them, reinforcing the good which they kept while supplying the grace which they need to overcome whatever they have done which as less than the good which they could and should have done. God did this with great love, indeed, with so great a love, that we have the incarnation, where God assumed created human nature and revealed, from within the domain of creation, the fullness of that love. That love is also the love which God  wants us all to have: we are to love God, and in that love for God, we are to love what God loves, that is the rest of creation, which altogether can be said to be our neighbor, something God has been telling humanity throughout history, such as when God revealed it through the Law of Moses or through various prophets:

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him.  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets. (Matt. 22:35-40 RSV).

The more we unite ourselves to grace, the more we cooperate with grace and become deified, the more we will fulfill the twofold command to love, realizing that the two commands are one. This is because when we properly love our neighbor, when we love creation, we love God in and through it, even as when we love God, we love all that is contained within God, which includes creation itself. When we do not love one or the other, we do not love either properly. When we deny our neighbor, we deny God. When we revile our neighbor, who is made in the image  and likeness of God, we likewise revile God, as Origen explained (using an analogy which was appropriate for his time):

And so that you may be more persuaded that if you revile your neighbor, you have reviled Christ, I will also present this from the holy letters: if anyone abuses the wooden or waxen image of an emperor, he is condemned as if he had abused the emperor, since he commits an abuse against the image. And you, if you abuse or revile someone who has already restored the “in the image” of the Creator, it is his image that you have abused and reviled. Therefore, one must beware of speaking ill and reviling one’s neighbor or acting in any way wickedly. [2]

When we fulfill the law, when we embrace love, we will find love opens us up to an awareness of the reality of the kingdom of God. Love shows us how all things are one, not through a unity which blurs distinctions and annihilates them, but a one in which those distinctions remain, similar to the way the three persons of the Godhead are to be found even though God is one. To act out of love is to imitate God. To act out of love seeks to establish and affirm the unity of all things. To act out of love is to truly allow the light of grace penetrate us, and when we do so, we will experience the world with the kind of glory and joy which love brings to us, even if in the midst of all that love, we encounter and experience great suffering. Yet, the parados of how this is so, of how this is possible, will be with us until the full realization of the eschaton in eternal life, for it is only within eternal life can we appreciate and understand the way God worked in and with history so that creation could realize itself in the best, most appropriate form. For God saw it was best to give it the freedom all lovers give their beloved if they truly love them.

[1] Sergius Bulgakov, “The Sophiology of Death ” in The Sophiology of Death. Essays on Eschatology: Personal, Political, Universal. Trans. Roberto J. De La Noval (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2021), 132.

[2] Origen, Homilies on the Psalms: Codex Monacensis Graecus 314. Trans. Joseph W. Trigg (Washington, DC: CUA Press, 2020), 212 [Homily 3 on Psalm 73].


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