Light When It Comes
(William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016)
I had started on this book when I received Fr. Henry Siew’s booklet Encountering the Lord in Daily Life, in which he recommends the Consciousness Examen as one of three “simple forms of prayer”, and which I decided was something I should finally take seriously. I am still struggling with it. It may be simple but it takes a lot of discipline and I have yet to develop the mindfulness to do it properly.
Light When It Comes is serendipitously the practical application of the Examen and so it is a great help for me. What Anderson is showing is that one needs to be attuned to the Lord – that is how to recognise Him in everything. It is such an enjoyable lyrical [just look at the pretty cover!] collection of snippets from the ups and downs, questions and answers, and doubts and hopes of daily life. In both light and darkness, God is always present; it is just that we miss the point sometimes.
I found the sections on “darkness” particularly helpful. They reminded me of reading Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son and coming to the awful and somewhat discouraging realisation that the morose, brooding older brother was me. Everything the father had was his but he wasn’t aware of it – we can only imagine the joy and love that would have been in his heart had he known this, but he was stuck on the darker side of things, where he saw patches of light without catching its full brilliance. The older brother and I have some trouble recognising the light when it comes.
There were parts of the book that struck me like they were written just for me, and I include some of them here, with their chapter titles. I see them as glimpses of light that I need.
Seeing the Light
And the first words that Adam speaks? … the first recorded words of the first man—are poetry.
This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh.
Dying to Ourselves
To pray the examen doesn’t just mean to revel in the light. It means to face the darkness, too: the darkness of suffering, the darkness of our own limitations.
The cross is a lens… It’s our formula for interpreting every situation. What should we do? Whatever conforms us the most closely to the cross. Whatever turns the situation upside down…
What should we do? Whatever empties us. Whatever silences us… Whatever gives us the chance to die.
I thirst for praise, but praise doesn’t satisfy. I thirst for order, but order doesn’t satisfy. I thirst for certainty: never to be troubled, never to be confused, never to have to wrestle with things in my mind. But certainty doesn’t quench the thirst, and it’s not possible anyway. None of this water is clean and pure. None of this water is the living water.
But we’re being healed of leprosy all the time, and we’re always failing to realize it.
Sometimes where we find ourselves is in the desert. More and more, I think, life is about letting things go, or trying to. It’s about giving things up. It’s about holding things in memory and believing in them still.
What value is it to the people in our lives if we spend the morning writing a poem, or walking in the woods, or weeding the front flowerbed?
What worth is our joy?
A worth beyond price.
“I have said these things to you,” Jesus tells his disciples, “so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
But this is the night before the Crucifixion, this is the Farewell Discourse in the Gospel of John, and sadness fills the room. Fear.
How can joy be possible?
May we see the Lord of joy and light in all we do!
Excerpts of the book can be found here.
♫ Makes me think of In My Heart