Have mercy upon us,
O Almighty God, Jesus Christ, Son of the living God!
O true Light of love, that enlighteneth every darkness,
O guiding Light,
O Sun of righteousness,
O Morning star,
O Brightness of the Deity,
O Radiance of the eternal brightness,
have mercy upon us!
- Mugrón, Litany of the Trinity, Irish, 14th century
His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace…
- Revelation 1.14, 15
Shortly after the fires of the Celtic revival died down, a number of “litanies” began to appear, in the form of prayers of celebration, confession, and intercession. They drew heavily on Scripture, and seem to have been written for personal use, to aid in prayer, focus the mind, or provide a resource for shared devotional experiences.
Typically, these litanies provide long lists of the attributes and works of God, invoked to aid the reader in praise, thanksgiving, or seeking the mercy of the Lord. In these litanies we get a glimpse of the Celtic Christian vision of unseen things – the image of Christ and God that these believers carried around in their head – and we can sense how powerful a reality the vision of unseen things must have been in their daily lives.
The excerpt for today is from a longer section extolling the virtues of Jesus. It shows us that Celtic Christians associated the Savior with brightness, brilliance, and the sun. On certain high crosses, the sun would be carved in the center of the circle, surrounded by five planets. Here it seems to have represented both the physical sun and Jesus as the sovereign of the known universe, since, on the reverse of the cross, Jesus was featured – either crucified or reigning in glory – in just the same location.
This association of Jesus with the sun traces back, perhaps, to Patrick’s vision of Jesus as the sun, bearing down on him to seal his faith and calling in the Lord:
That very night, when I was asleep, Satan tested me most severely: the memory of it will remain with me as long as I am in this body. It was as if a huge rock fell on top of me and I had no use of my limbs. But from what quarter came the inspiration to my ignorant spirit to call on Helias? In the midst of all this I saw the sun rise in the heavens, and when I shouted “Helias! Helias!” with all my strength – see, the brilliance of the sun came down on me and removed all the weighty pressure. I believe that the Lord Christ came to my help, and that it was the Spirit Who was crying out in me…
Before Patrick, however, equating Jesus with the sun and brilliant light is a soundly Biblical way of thinking about Him.
Jesus is the Light of the world, and John saw this up close and personal in his vision on Patmos. In paintings, dark colors tend to recede to the eye, while light colors come forward. Imagine the force of Jesus’ glorious visage as John turned to see all that brilliance bearing down on him, rushing at him, as if to gather him up in glory.
No wonder he fell down on his face – only to be comforted and lifted by the Savior.
Encounters with the glory of God await us in the contemplation of Jesus’ face (2 Cor. 4.6). When we see Jesus, radiant in His glory, gazing upon us with laser-like eyes, our soul is quickened, joy floods through our veins, we are bowed but exhilarated, and we are emboldened with new possibilities for serving the Lord, that others might know His glory as well. Passages such as today’s and others – Psalms 45 and 110, for example, those reporting on Jesus’ transfiguration, and Revelation 14.14-16 – can help us gain a clearer picture of Jesus as He raditates glory from His heavenly throne, advancing His Kingdom, building His Church, and sending us to the world.
He is truly there, in light more brilliant than the sun. By seeking Him in meditation and prayer, engaging the reality of Jesus with the eye of faith (Eph. 1.18), we can know the brightness and glory of our King, and find grace to sustain us in the midst of every trial (2 Cor. 4.16-18).
The face of Jesus radiates the glory of infinite grace, to encourage, heal, revive, and renew us. Let us bask in that brilliant Light every day of our lives.
Psalm 17.15 (Park Street: All You That Fear Jehovah’s Name)
But as for me, Lord, save and bless! Let me behold Your righteousness.
Your face in glory I would see, and thus forever blessèd be,
And thus forever blessèd be.
Lord Jesus, come down on me! Let the brilliance of the light of Your glory lift the crushing burden of my sin! Let Your Spirit come to help me this day, O Lord, and I will go forth in Your Name to…
Aids to contemplation
Our website, www.ailbe.org, offers three valuable resources to aid your times of contemplating the Lord. Bruce Van Patter’s occasional column, 8:18, lead us to slow down and meditate on the beauty of creation, and to discern the Lord’s presence and glory in everyday encounters. My Scriptorium and Mike Slay’s DEEP columns offer daily reading and meditation in God’s Word, to guide you deeper into Kingdom living. Check them out, then add them to your subscriptions by using the pop-up on the page.
And if you’d like a tour de force through the spiritual realm, where Jesus rules in glory, order a copy of our workbook, The Landscape of Unseen Things, and let these 24 lessons lead you more deeply into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. Order your copy by clicking here.
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.