The title of our School Mission, the prayers of the Epiphany season, and the concentration this week and last week in our Sunday gospels on the first two Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, has made me ask how we actually “shine” for God.
The metaphor of “shining” is one that is much used in both the Old and New Testaments. They seemed to find this feature of the physical world a very useful one to convey spiritual meaning. Perhaps we can too, by looking at three ways in which objects shine.
The first way is that they reflect light from another source. This idea of “reflected glory” is a common one in theological and spiritual writing, and is a useful image of how we reflect the Uncreated Light of God. But there are two potential problems. Firstly, it might lead us to a very “external” approach to our faith – making ourselves shiny on the outside, without changing our inner nature. Secondly, it only works when there is light shining on us! In those times of darkness – the spiritual authors used the phrase “desolation” – how can we continue to shine?
So we turn to the next way of emitting light – excited atoms. Glowing, in other words. St Paul tells the Romans to “be aglow with the Spirit”. When we see a light bulb glowing, it is drawing power from the mains to do so. When we draw spiritual power from prayer, the Scriptures and the sacraments, we too can glow. In fact, we may not be able to help it. We might even be like those minerals which emit visible light when exposed to UV radiation – glowing in the darkness.
But there is a third way of shining. This is like the coal that glows as it burns up – or, better still, like the sun, which shines as its gas is transformed from hydrogen to helium. This is the shining of the Saints – being transformed “from glory to glory” (St Paul again). But we too can be transformed in this way, and perhaps our prayer this week might be that, like the wine at Cana, we might be transformed for God – and that, in being transformed, we might shine for him too.