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An encounter with radiance suggests astonishing energy at work, known or unknown, at times, often tinged with a pinkish glow. In that split second, the psyche shimmers, stretches beyond the familiar, and gapes in wonder—Even longs for permanence. We’ve been touched and we know it. With its diminishment, its dark mantle plunges us into darkness. The void aches. We shiver and continue waiting for what we know not.

Many equate such experiences with the revelation of God, the dynamic firing of His creation from its beginning as recorded in the bible. Seventeen times, the word radiance is used for God: His felt presence experienced in the Old and New Testaments’ accounts of the Jerusalem Temple and the Temple in the book of Revelation. 

Another reference to the word radiance appears in the book of Baruch, this time, superimposed upon the Mosaic Law from which Israel had strayed: the source of their holiness. Preferring idolatry to observance of the law, Babylonians had destroyed their Temple and enslaved them in 582 BCE. 

Turn back…in her radiance, make your way to the light. (4:12)

The imperative is just as critical as then—which ever spiritual path embraced, in or outside of religion or scripture study: Humility and service of God, self, and others keep us moving toward the light. Within the light, expect experiences of radiance. In silence and lowliness of heart, they do come until embraced by Eternal Light.

As I recall the Genesis story of Cain and Abel (4: 1–16), I’m not as shocked by our distraught world, shimmering with incurable disease, violence, and corruption. From its very beginnings, evil has seeded our world with the Seven Deadly Sins: anger, pride, lust, greed, sloth, gluttony, and envy. I know, because I have all of them, as does everyone else.

When failed instincts succumb to temptation to have more, to be more, or to leave a trail of monuments in their honor, violence inevitably ensues, whether around the kitchen table or the conference table.

Examples of evil in my lifetime are rife: World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. The Killing Fields in Cambodia, Stalin’s Gulag Archipelago, Castro’s Cuba, and the corruption of Central American governments—all buzzed on the AP, but only handing out piecemeal information. The 1960s assassinations of President Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Dr. Martin Luther King revealed the agendas of the underworld.

Lynchings and other nasty racist practices also killed bodies and spirits. Our legislators declared war on unborn babies. Clergy sexually abused altar boys, leaving irreparable psycho-social harm. The proliferation of drugs contributing to the watered-down ethos in global societies still smells to high heaven. And the hype of the sports and entertainment worlds distract from significant life values.

But as with the plight of Cain after he murdered his brother, we are not left without resources to thrive in the midst of this madness. Those practicing faith in God are marked and will find their way, even to their deaths.

The Twelve Steps help scrutinize my behavior.

We now begin our reflection upon the seven Great O Antiphons of Advent that begin on December 17. 

Note that each Antiphon opens with the exclamation of O! In its wake reverberate the explosion of discovery, the joy of wordlessness, and the silence of awe. Such may have been the experience of the composer of these ancient Antiphons while reflecting upon texts found in the book of Isaiah from which they were drawn.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,

reaching from one end to the other,

mightily and sweetly ordering all things:

Come and teach us the way of prudence.

The first O Antiphon addresses the promised Messiah as Wisdom, influenced by Isaiah 11:2-3; 28-29.

Such Wisdom is identified with Spirit or the Hebrew word, ruah, meaning breath that first hovered over primeval waters in the book of Genesis. Within this breath emanates all creation, then, as well as now; its intent: harmony, communion, and bountiful joy. It’s always been that way. But sin/separateness has corroded our spiritual faculties and exiled us into one wilderness after another where nothing lives.

Bereft of ultimate meaning, we’ve everything to learn. The Antiphon concludes with a cry for help, in the imperative voice: Come teach … Only with willingness to accept ruah can begin the conversion of heart, critical to our evolving into a new creation. Ensuing dialogue with Him prompts the daily practice of Prudence or its modern equivalent, discernment.

That’s the rub: Discernment requires consciousness to use our Pause button when adhering to ruah’s direction, often contrary to our instinctual wants or demands, but we do it anyway. The desired change does occur.

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