Light of all the world

Daily Reading for January 5

You know how sometimes on a pitch black night in the country, you see far off one glimmer of light and you follow it and it turns out to be just a candle in a cottage window—but it was enough to assure you of life ahead, to give you the lead you wanted in the dark. In the same way, when the Magi turned from their abstruse calculations in search of heaven and followed a star, they did not arrive at a great mathematical result or revelation of the cosmic mind. They found a poor little family party and were brought to their knees—because, like the truly wise, they were really humble-minded—before a baby born under most unfortunate circumstances, a mystery of human life, a little living growing thing. What a paradox! the apparently rich Magi coming to the apparently poor child. There they laid down their intellectual treasures—all pure gold to them—and, better than that, offered the spirit of adoration, the incense which alone consecrates the intellectual life and quest of truth, and that reverent acceptance of pain, mental suffering and sacrifice, that death to self which, like myrrh, hallows the dedicated life in all its forms.

The utmost man can achieve on his own here capitulates before the unspeakable simplicity of the methods of God. He is the Light of the World—all of it. He does not only want or illuminate spiritual things. His hallowing touch is for the ox and the ass, as afterwards for the sparrows and the flowers. There never was a less high-brow religion or one more deeply in touch with natural life than Christianity, although it is infinite in its scope. Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same shall be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is no use being too clever about life. Only so far as we find God in it do we find any meaning in it.

From Light of Christ by Evelyn Underhill, quoted in Advent with Evelyn Underhill, edited by Christopher L. Webber. Copyright © 2006. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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