Snowflake Photos from SnowCrystals.com
I know I need to be careful how I say this.
But when I first saw these pictures, all I could think of was: Look! Pictures of Christ!
Pictures of perfection, they remind us of the joyful Antiphon for a Monday’s vespers: “yours is more than mortal beauty; every word you speak is full of grace.”
They are -in a sense- pictures of Christ in Glory.
He is the image of the invisible God,
the first-born of all creation.
In him everything in heaven and on earth was created,
things visible and invisible.
All things were created through him;
all were created for him.
He is before all else that is.
In him everything continues in being
— Col 1:12-17
The Christ is the firstborn of all creation -he is the prototokos– the primacy is his, and he is the first of all that is brought or may be brought.
And so, this snow, these miraculous, singular snowflakes -each exceptional as your own fingerprints- have been brought into being, by Christ, by whose glorious light they are made.
I think of Christ’s primacy as being akin to the old flashbulbs we used in cameras; there would be a blinding flash of light, and then something would come of it. Christ is the flash of light but because there are no negatives in Christ his light brings clarity, not an aching blind spot. His Holy Light is the consent – every “yes” that allows life to blossom, rather than shrivel or suffocate and die. As John tells us in the beginning of his Gospel, without that Light, nothing exists. Life is carried on it, the way it is carried, joyfully, in the fizzy mist of the Shekinah.
Perhaps this can better explain what I mean:
I watched an incredible woman generously, disinterestedly and most helpfully console another woman who was in major emotional distress. And that time, when I saw the mist, I also thought…here is Christ, poured forth like a libation.
Although Christ was in the kindness, and in the assist, it was the mist I was writing about; it flowed from woman to woman, warm and aglow with love, and it shimmered and moved, pouring forth and through even the tiniest of their psycho-spiritual openings. The mist, and the light, they were alive.
In his primacy, Christ is the light, yes. But also, Christ is the “let there be” Light.
Try to put that first image of the flashbulb into your head. There is a flash of light; his Divine “yes” and then, things come to be, because his light, his assent, came first.
A flash -a Divine “yes”- and a new life is formed. Flash! A new crocodile. Flash! A litter puppies. Flash! Maggots and flies. Flash! Springtime flowers. Flash! A new infant is conceived, life assented to, allowed to be created, thanks to the light; thanks to the “yes.”
Without the flash that is his light – nothing! Nothing comes because nothing is brought. No life.
Considered in this way, the mystery of Christ being the “firstborn of all creation” in whom “we live and move and have our being” becomes accessible. What also becomes accessible is the concept of evil and corruption in those acts which work to hinder the light -to stop what God has, by his love, consented into being.
How the Evil must dance when a new life is disallowed, shredded in utero, and the flash, the “yes” snuffed out. How Evil must smile in content when the means by which God permits us to assist in creation are waylaid, or purposely directed toward what is only decaying, and corrupted and utterly dead.
It was only when I came to understand that Christ is truly “the first born of all creation” and therefore the very flash and thrust of all creation, that I came to understand the notion of things ordered, and disordered. It is less about design and physicality, than about turning a “yes” into a “no,” life into death, being into non-being, light into dark.
The only way the Evil can stop what the Light of Christ has put into motion is with our help. We are destructors in big and little ways. We kill our bodies, or our children. We kill their little psyches. We beat each other up with guilt and sly manipulations, or the serpent’s hissing gossip. We look at what we should condemn, and look away when we ought not. We give an unrealized assist, then, to what is anti-Christ, anti-light, anti-life, anti-God-all-good; we help to plunge the world into a darkness bleak, and cold.
The snowflakes are ordered -they are visibly, perfectly ordered- like Christ. And as with Christ, you can see the whole world in them. Butterflies, and flowers, dragonflies, and stingers and crescents; stars, arrows and feathers and leaves; sand dollars, beetles,and tents and cathedrals and even people. This snowflake looks like it is just crammed full of people.
And in each of those snowflakes, I see the cross, the speartip, the pillar, the stone, the star that led shepherds and kings, and a mother’s pierced heart, too.
In the scriptures, we hear of rivers laughing, cedars clapping, water creatures praising God. Thomas Merton talked about seeing humanity going about “shining like the sun.” St. Therese Couderc wrote of seeing the luminous “goodness” lingering aglow upon all creation.
They are all talking about the same thing -this primal light of Christ- the light that came before any thing, before any body, and which remains, throughout. It is a light that can only willfully be extinguished, and even then, the merest surviving ember may still attract his mercy and love, and blaze anew. Like finds like. Light reflects.
When we see the snowflakes we can even better appreciate St. Patrick’s Breastplate, and his prayer to the Christ -in all things seen and unseen- all around:
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Think about that, next time you’re caught in the snow.
And don’t our Anglican brothers and sisters surely know how to do Advent Vespers?