Light Unconquerable

There is an ancient Eastern religion called Mithraism, whose details no one has really worked out yet, but which possessed one peculiarity of note. They, like many pagans, revered the sun. This is where our December 25th became important, that the adherents of Mithraism would watch the sun 'die,' and come to life again. The Romans, borrowing this religion, called it the Sol Invictus: the Unconquered Sun.

Mithraism aside (because I am not a pagan), I found this name fascinating. The Unconquered Sun: a light which no length or depth of darkness can quench, an immortal source of radiance, a sentient light. This concept, hastily torn from Mithraism, was dragged off to my mental lair for me to brood over like some dragon brooding over mounds of gold. I have come across many such almost-truths in various pagan religions, but this one topped them all.

Of course we are familiar with the idea of an undying, eternal Light - our God is light and the father of lights, in whom there is no change or shifting shadow. This is a truth we hold to be self-evident, an indisputable truth of our very lives. He is the light of our souls. But this unexpected phrasing, this freak twist of man's eye as he gropes for the light himself, this idea of the "Unconquered Sun" shed, as it were, a whole new light on my understanding. The whole title is infused with an indomitable sense of hope, a rock-solid assurance of goodness and warmth and life.

I don't know about some, but I know what it is like to be afraid of the dark. Not just the dark, but The Dark. I know what it is like to sit in the long dark cold of despair and wonder if Christ's light would ever come touch my withered petals. So when I heard the words 'sol invictus,' something in me answered with a shout. Yes! I have known this truth for years upon years, but condensed into two words - only two words, yet so powerful - I found my legs again. No matter how long the dark, or how deep the dark,

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke; the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

So a story began to shape itself in my mind. There was a man called Tabby, Tabby O'Connor, and place called the Land of Nod, and a great deal of darkness and bastions of light, and the whole long struggle of being a light in a dark place began to be a tale. It's still percolating, but perhaps Megan will help me get it sorted out.

It is perhaps my own experience which draws me toward phrases like "Sol Invictus," or inspires titles like "The Fire Trinity" or "A Countenance of Light." The theme is quite strong in Between Earth and Sky. It seems almost unavoidable to me: it is so very crucial to my own life as a Christian (which, spiritually, is embarrassingly redundant). In my darkest night I have this unfailing light within me, and I can't avoid touching on this in my works. When I write 'dark' it is only because I want to show that the Light is unconquerable, that the highest, coldest Atlantic waves of wickedness dash to useless pieces against it - and turn to silver glass and shine. The one side of the coin is that this Light is unconquerable; the other is that this Light conquers all.

There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach. The Lord of the Rings

2 ripostes:

  1. Oh, Jenny. It's the Light, glorious whether it is the sun in splendour or a farther, smaller star like a pinprick of light peeping through the clouds. This means so much now; it goes /deep/, where thoughts are most meaningful. I love all of your stories, but I am specially glad that it's this one you've made mine, in a way.

    Thank you, my friend.

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  2. Curious what you make of this, posted just days after your entry: http://xkcd.com/847/ Specifically the alt-text: "Light and high beauty are passing things as well." Of course I don't agree, but the proximity and similarity of themes suddenly struck me. This is what we're up against, either the artificial illumination of humanism, or the bleak desolation of materialism (given the choice, I'll take the latter; at least it's honest).

    Earlier this evening Drew and I were discussing the relative positions of Light and Darkness, and whether it is possible to experience the one without the other. Like the materialists, I took refuge in the quantifiable, empirical nature of the created universe: light is a measurable, well-understood phenomenon, caused by the collapse of electrons from high-energy orbits to lower ones, causing the emission of a photon, a packet of energy/matter which behaves in sometimes inexplicable ways (see the two-slit experiment; further proof of the inscrutable but ultimately logical nature of our God). Quantum physics aside, the point is that the light is the real thing, the objective thing, and while darkness can ultimately be known only as the absence of light, the inverse is demonstrably not true.

    Much has been made of the disconnect between the sciences and the humanities, but they find their ultimate synthesis, as does everything else, in the Creator King, Lord Sovereign of the Universe, who has ordered all things for the enjoyment and understanding of His creatures, yes, but more importantly for His own glory. Light exists, Light is evident to all, and despite those who in their unrighteousness would do their utmost to suppress it, that Light Unconquerable will more than conquer. May we stand in it so completely as to cast no shadow.

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