At the transfiguration, the apostles saw our Saviour’s face shining as the sun, and his raiment white as light, also a lucid cloud or body of light, out of which the voice came; which visible light and splendor was, not many centuries ago, maintained by the Greek church, to have been divine, and uncreated, and the very glory of God: as may be seen in the history wrote by the emperor John Cantacuzene.George Berkeley, Siris 187.
Remarkable to see this from Berkeley in an extended reflection on the metaphysics of light. (See this article for more.) Recalls this passage from Maximus the Confessor:
The unspeakable and prodigious fire hidden in the essence of things, as in the bush, is the fire of divine love and the dazzling brilliance of His beauty inside every thing, . . . a shining forth, an epiphany, of the mysterious depths of being.Cited in Paul Evdokimov, The Art of the Icon: A Theology of Beauty (Pasadena, CA: Oakwood Publications, 2011) with footnote 25 pointing to Ambigua ad Iohannem, p. 9, paragraph 1148C, translated by Constas 2014 and Jeauneau 1988 (Latin translation by John Scottus Eriugena).
God’s Mother was born today, the first of the twelve great feasts in the church year. These poor thoughts rattled around in my mind over the last few days, so I set them down. Those familiar with the feasts connected to Mary’s life will see that my words are just clumsy responses to three of the most common images in the church’s hymns about Mary: Moses’s burning bush, Jacob’s heavenly ladder and Ezekiel’s closed gate.
Today a green bud came out upon a once dead branch from deep within the heart of our own tree. Unwitting, song birds and myriad wild creatures chorused, flitted and chattered amid the many wide-reaching boughs of this great tree. Around its heart, tangled branches have rubbed raw their brothers, bruised and sometimes barren. This spray of life from within the thicket will receive sap and sun and all—when, lighted at her core by divine flame, she will carry to her rambling race that bright and living fire.
Today a ladder was set down by the Creator that would extend with her humble prayers and attentive heart to span from earth to heaven—saying yes to God’s desire that He might descend to make a throne upon the earth and a paradise with us.
Today, the Architect set upon its hinges the one gate within our rebellious city that stood ready for its Maker’s voice—ready to open only for our God that He might come forth to live with us, sharing our homes and our full humanity.
And here is a favorite passage from Fr. Thomas Hopko of Blessed Memory that summarizes, as succinctly as I’ve found, the entire history of those differences over Mary that developed between the Greeks and Latins:
As Father Alexander Schmemann used to say, ‘Mary is not the great exception.’ You know, exceptionally conceived, exceptionally ending her human life, bypassing original sin, bypassing death. No, no, that is not the teaching at all. It’s just the opposite. She’s the great example. She exemplifies and patterns the Christian life.
It was this hour by the dying firelight that the gnomes loved more than any other time. It was then they talked of so many things.
“Funny how a fire makes you want to stare and stare at it,” said Dodder reflectively, blowing out a cloud of tobacco smoke and watching the glow of the red fire’s core; “men are just the same, so the hobgoblins used to tell me. There was a hobgoblin in the old farmhouse which stood where Lucking’s farm now is. He told me they sit, just like we do, staring into the embers. Of course, it is understandable in man, because a fire is the only bit of wildness left in his house; his surroundings are artificial, but a fire makes him think of the days when he lived as we do, out in the open with nothing but caves and hollow trees to shield him from the weather.”
Excerpt from The Little Grey Men by BB.
Roses often burn. Theirs is the most purifying ﬂame of all. …Fire is roses.
From A Swiftly Tilting Planet by L’Engle (echoing MacDonald and Dante).
Supreme and fiery force who has kindled all sparks of life and breathed forth none of death, …fiery life of the divine substance, you blaze above the beauty of the fields, shine in the waters, and burn in the sun, moon, and stars.
You, the fiery force, lie hidden in these things, and they flame forth from you, as breath continually moves a person, and as the moving flame is in the fire. And all these things are alive in their essence. They are not found in death, since I am life.
From the Book of Divine Works by Hildegard of Bingen.
Poem by by Emily Dickinson.
Though I get home how late, how late!
So I get home, ‘t will compensate.
Better will be the ecstasy
That they have done expecting me,
When, night descending, dumb and dark,
They hear my unexpected knock.
Transporting must the moment be,
Brewed from decades of agony!
To think just how the fire will burn,
Just how long-cheated eyes will turn
To wonder what myself will say,
And what itself will say to me,
Beguiles the centuries of way!