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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

But as our Conception of God is, so We Ourselves Become

By Caryll Houselander
God is light, Christ is the shining out of the light of God. The property of light is to illuminate, to give beauty to all it touches, to heal all that it penetrates, to purify all that is submitted to its heat. The Incarnation is the dawn of Christ’s light in us. Our longing for that dawn is our prayer for the world, our surrender of self to him, is our gift of Christ to men.

There is a widespread idea today that it does not matter what our conception of God is like; how vague it is, how confused, even how distorted. “We all worship the same God” has become almost a shrug of the shoulders, dismissing the responsibility of knowing God as he reveals himself to be, as if to know him truly made no difference to us.

But as our conception of God is, so we ourselves become. If we think he is hard, we grow hard; if we think he is a kill-joy, we become kill-joys, if we think of him as an omnipotent secret police, all-present, all-seeing, all-terrible, we shrink from him, and the heart that shrinks from God shrinks to nothing.

Saddest of all misconceptions is the merely negative God; it is this that fills the world with negative, apathetic people, futile before the misery of mankind. Only Christ’s light can touch that misery. Only in that light shining within us can we see the long-obscured path back to human happiness and walk in it.

Certain moralists delight in depicting the path to happiness, which incidentally is the path to heaven, as not only straight and narrow but dark, treacherous and impassable, with the result that human initiative dries up, and courage is sapped at the outset.

Hard it is and beset with danger, but we are not asked to walk in it blindly; with Christ in our heart we see every step of the way. Light, Saint Paul tells us, is armor, the feet set in Christ’s crimson footprints are shod in flame.
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