Carlos Caso-Rosendi

While hearing the reading of the Gospel at Mass I had a thought about light and darkness. The origin of all the sin in the universe can be traced to the first act of envy when one of the angels of God desired to take for himself some of the happiness of God, particularly God’s fatherhood and God’s delight in the love of His creatures. The name of that prince among angels was “light bearer” but his envious eye turned him into a “prince of darkness” making him lose all his original beauty and splendor, sending him far away from the throne of God for eternity.

After the first humans were created that fallen angel tempted the first woman and made her desire for herself the wisdom of God, knowing good and evil. Soon man was tempted too. Expelled from the Garden of Eden the human race went on to know good and evil. In time a conflict arose among their children, Cain the elder killed Abel the younger in a fit of rage fueled by envy.

When writing the series on Cultural Marxism I realized that the three competing socio-political systems have one thing in common: the main element in their philosophies is social envy. For the Liberal Capitalist greed and competition is the engine that drives the system forward. Fascists and Socialists-Communists make strong appeals to love and brotherhood but both desire to control and spend the capital of the upper classes, envying the rich and successful is what inspires them to fight for social change.

Matthew 6: 22-34 – “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is simple, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is wicked, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Eyes are our lamps, the sources of light for our body. Often we hear that “eyes are the windows of the soul” and many refer to a dear child as “the light of my eyes” – light is essential for life to thrive, one could compare it to the love of God sent from above to bless every creature. St John expresses that simply by saying: “God is love” and  “God is light.” If light is associated with life and love then darkness must represent their opposites. In the passage quoted above Jesus reveals to us the transformational power of both light and darkness: our body reacts to light or darkness accordingly.

Proverbs 14: 11, 30 – The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish […] A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

In Proverbs 14:1 we are told of the good wife that builds her home up, and her opposite the foolish woman who tears her own house down. So we can add another quality to our small collection of counterpoints: light and darkness, life and death, health and sickness, love and envy. The love of the Creator is what brought the universe into existence, the envy of the prince of darkness  works to destroy God’s wise and beautiful creation.

The theme reappears in Scripture and Holy Tradition over and over, the life of the great saints often is presented to us as a mighty fight between light and darkness. Every Christian is a soldier of light fighting to bring order into the world. In doing so we collaborate with God. The Creator found that “the earth was formless and empty with darkness over the surface of the abyss” and brought light and order to it when He saw that “light was good, and separated light from darkness” in the beginning of creation.

We found echoes of that theme in the story of the beginnings of the royal house of Israel. Samuel the prophet had anointed the first king, Saul from the tribe of Benjamin. In time Saul allowed darkness to corrupt his soul. The reason was the usual: envy. The king of Israel was envious of David, who was at the time a simple shepherd boy. God blessed David with poetic wit, musical talent, a handsome appearance, a fearless heart, and many other noble graces. God was showing Israel a scale model of what the coming Messiah was going to be. David’s name means “beloved” and he was a man after God’s own heart. Many centuries later God the Father gave witness of the Messiah by letting Israel hear the words: “This is my Son the beloved” to identify Jesus, a descendant of David, as the Savior of Israel.

Saul allowed darkness to take over his own soul and he foolishly destroyed his own house. Knowing that there was no more hope for the first king, God sent Samuel the prophet to anoint “one of the sons of Jesse” as the future king.

1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13 – The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” When they came, he looked on Eli’ab and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed is before him.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.

Notice how this passage calls attention to David’s eyes. I like to think that David’s eyes were the windows of a pure and noble soul, filled with virtues ready to receive the push of the Holy Spirit to do God’s will. Armed with God’s favor, David grew to be a warrior of light, and a shepherd for Israel. He was the man prepared to conquer the last corners of the Promised Land, and to take Jerusalem where his son Solomon would build a magnificent Temple to honor and worship the God of Israel.

Psalms 23:1-6 – The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anointed my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

King David was given the grace of a pure heart, a simple eye, and unshakeable confidence in the God of Israel. Notice how this famous passage of his Psalm acknowledges that all his possessions are a gift from God received “in the presence of my enemies” that is in the presence of envious, impure eyes. There is a wall around David that will stay there protecting him and his house as long as his purity of heart subsists. There is nothing his enemies could do but watch enviously as the House of David grows and is established in the midst of his adversaries.

Nothing has changed since the days of David. God continues to bless those determined to be warriors of light. St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians confirms that much.

Ephesians 5:8-14 – for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”

St Paul wants us to walk as children of light, avoiding the works of darkness but he adds one more task: to expose those evil works. The work of the Church is to shine on those things that are “formless and empty” illuminating “the darkness over the surface of the abyss” just as God did in the beginning. We are now instruments of God working in the new creation. King David was blessed with a mission but he was not spared the envy and enmity of lesser men. In the same manner every warrior of light will find out that not everyone accepts gladly the goodness that he is now shining upon the world. A blind man in Jerusalem found that out when Jesus miraculously restore his eyesight.

John 9:1-41 – As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means “Sent”). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said, “I am the man.” They said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age, ask him.” So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

There is enough material here to keep theologians working for centuries but we will extract from this rich passage only a few points. Darkness is there so we can understand the consequences of the absence of light. Once we understand the capital importance of light in our life we must work accordingly. The man born without light was forced to beg because he could not work. Jesus could have cured him instantly like he cured the blind man of Jericho but Our Lord decides to spit on some dust, making mud; He then spreads that mud on the man’s eyes and sends him to wash to the fountain of Siloam. The early Fathers of the Church find in this story a hint on man’s new creation. The blind man is in darkness reminding us of the ancient proverb – “the heart of a man is like deep waters” – and the image harks back to the beginning of creation: deep waters and God working to bring light into the primordial darkness. The mud reminds us of how God “formed man from the soil of the ground” and the washing at the fountain reminds us of the sacrament of baptism. The name of the fountain is “sent” evoking the mission that comes from receiving the light and life of God in baptism: we are to become co-workers in shining that light unto others. That is what the formerly blind man does. Some recognize him but others do not believe. Among the unbelievers the worse kind are the religious leaders. They insist that the miracle violated the day of rest – they failed to see that the Sabbath was made to give life and light to God’s people ­(Mark 2:27) and they conclude very wrongly that the former beggar remains in spiritual darkness. The beggar was blind through no fault of his own but the religious leaders were simply closing their eyes to the very presence of God manifested in Jesus’ powerful works. Even the ignorant blind man was able to see the truth but those instructed and formed in religion could not. The leaders of the synagogue saw Jesus as a mere sinner just like others had seen in Jesus merely “the son of the carpenter” – envy manifests itself always in similar ways.

Luke 4:16-22 – He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
Because he has anointed me
To proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
And recovery of sight for the blind,
To set the oppressed free,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

Proverbs 14: 11, 30 – The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish […] A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

The spiritual body of that princely angel was made of light but his envy changed it into darkness; the royal house of Saul perished because the king could not contain his jealousy; the Temple and the religious system of Jesus’ time were utterly destroyed. In contrast many saints born of the flesh have been transformed and now shine in the glory of Heaven; the house of David was firmly established and did not fail to bring the Messiah to Israel; the modest Church of the Twelve Apostles grew and reached the far corners of the world with the light of the Gospel.

The lesson is rather obvious: envy brings darkness to the soul; it rots the spiritual bones of man, the structure, the very foundations. The light of God, manifested as truth and love gives life and wisdom to those who open themselves to receive it. The struggle between wicked envy and godly love, between evil darkness and the light of Christ continues. The battleground is our heart; a simple eye is our shield and protection.