The night sky has always fascinated me. I remember as a child lying down in the grass with my dad in the backyard waiting for the evening star to appear. On a clear evening, the sky would turn the loveliest deep cobalt blue. It looked like velvet and the emerging stars like diamonds. It was beautiful, yes, but not just that. The night sky was for me an invitation to enter a great mystery. A mystery I could not fathom but knew intuitively was safe and utterly trustworthy. I had no language then to describe what it felt like, but I remember still the longing to move toward that mystery. It was, of course, a childhood experience of transcendence. I know that many of you also had experiences like what I am trying to describe. That longing has never left me; I suspect you know that longing too.
According to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, last night--Jan. 31, 2017--three bodies of the Inner Solar System moved into close proximity to form a circle just 6° in diameter. Those celestial bodies, in case you want to know, were Mercury, Venus, and the moon. I have no idea what their proximity means, and they are not stars. But I believe their movements are guided by the Great Mystery by whose hand they were flung into space in the first place.
What is it about evening light that moves us so? Phos Hilaron is an ancient Christian hymn which translated from the Koine Greek into English means O Gladsome, Gladdening, or Gracious Light. It was originally intended to be sung at the lighting of lamps in the evening and so is sometimes known as the Lamp-lighting Hymn. It is the earliest known Christian hymn outside of the Bible still in use today. If you come to Evensong at Calvary Church on Sunday you will hear a contemporary version of this ancient hymn.
My husband sang the Phos Hilaron almost every night during his three years as a student at General Seminary in New York. It is not surprising then that he knows it from memory. But not only does he know it; the words are seared into his heart. It goes like this:
O gracious light, pure brightness of the everliving Father;
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed.
Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
And our eyes behold the vesper light,
We sing your praises, O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of Life,
And to be glorified through all the worlds.
Loved this essay! Thank you for thsee beautiful words! You are such a reassuring blessing in my life!
I reiterate what June Rose said above. Lovely words by Eyleen. Thank you.
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