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Happily, I discovered one of many expressions of Vincent van Gogh’s angst shared in a letter with his brother Theo, his sole confidante:

“There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by only see a wisp of smoke through the chimney, and go along their way. Look here, now, what must be done? Must one tend the inner fire, have salt in oneself, wait patiently yet with how much impatience for the hour when somebody will come and sit down near it—maybe to stay? Let him who believes in God wait for the hour that will come sooner or later.”  Letter # 155 from The Letters of Vincent van Gogh (1873 – 1890).

The great fire in our soul references the presence of the Sacred that van Gogh experienced in prayer and its extension in oils on canvases and other mediums. He knew the inner fire and the salt in oneself, both biblical images,that fueled his passion to explore the untried; but the impermanence of this state provoked impatience, and this letter seemed to have emanated from one of his dry spells. Still, van Gogh painted, subjects that caught his imagination, whether indoors or outdoors, at times, striking his passion into flame.

The oil-on-canvas, Plain Near Auvers (1890 – the year of his death) attracted my attention. Variants of greens, blues, yellows, and whites caught the dynamism of a peasant’s fields, with crows flitting among grasses in the foreground. The uncertainty of the sky escalates the drama: the Sacred surprises as in our lives. Note in the right-hand corner the addition of three red roses in the grasses.

Vincent van Gogh’s willingness to participate in the Creator’s plan, with broad brushstrokes and heavy pigments, challenges me to deepen my gift of writing in the time allotted me.  

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.

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