These are the days when light falls gently through the branches of the trees in the forest and touches the patches of moss clinging to tree bark and the new green shoots beginning to awaken from beneath autumn's refuse of old leaves on the forest floor. Sunlight works miracles on colour. Light that is not diffused by low-lying clouds allows colours to reach our eyes unadulterated. And suddenly when the sun breaks through the clouds we see the brilliant golden green of the buds that reach to the sky from the tips of deadened branches. We see more clearly that the rare flower in the forest is beginning to bloom, and the shock of pink shocks the heart as we realize that winter is not forever.
Everything is reaching for the sun these days. Runners are overeager for it as they don shorts and tank tops - even though it isn't quite warm enough yet. I have a pot of hyacinths sitting in a south-facing window, and their stems are all pressed close to the window, blooms aching upwards for the touch of sun. I imagine that if the sun were not up high in the sky and instead somewhere root level, our world would look drastically different. All of us in creation ache towards the warmth and brilliance of sunlight.
I just finished writing a paper on a sonnet by Gerard Manley Hopkins, "That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection." In the poem, Hopkins suggests that through identification with Christ and the incarnation, we will be resurrected to reflect Jesus' light. He uses the image of an "immortal diamond" to illustrate his point. The diamond is immortal, it is strong, it is pure and it is a concentration of reflected light - reflecting the light of the source of all light, Jesus. Purged of impurity and polished to a multifaceted smooth surface, the diamond reflects the light source clearly and fully.
I am reminded a poem that was on my mind last year around this time in the Holy Week before Easter, John Donne's "Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward." In the poem, the speaker is riding a horse on Good Friday in the direction of the West. However, his heart longs to ride towards the East, towards the sun:
Hence is 't, that I am carried towards the west
This day, when my soul's form bends towards the east.
There I should see a sun, by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget;
But that Christ on this Cross, did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.The east is a symbol of hope, a symbol of looking towards the Son who rose to life and makes all things clear. Yet so often we are moved by other things to look towards the west instead, the west that only reveals a setting sun that beckons the coming of night.
Just as the sun is the source of all light, Jesus is the light of all lights. And just as the world is made new and even dust dances when the sun shines brightly on us, hope in Jesus scatters clouds. May we take flowers as our model and throw our heads back and reach up up towards the light of lights that we may begin to reflect something of his glory and by doing so, shine like stars in the sky.