God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” Genesis 1:5
We continue where we left off Tuesday, meditating upon the above verse as it applies to reason, faith and the Israelites exodus from Egypt. What is happening in Exodus helps us to understand spiritually these Genesis verses on light, darkness, day and night.
Upon the Israelite’s departure from Egypt, when Pharaoh let the people go, God bestowed upon them the light of faith. This was a release from spiritual bondage as well as physical slavery, because Pharaoh wouldn’t let them make animal sacrifices to God in the desert as God wanted. 1 Enslavement to sin and sensual comforts never fosters, like Pharaoh, worship of God. Like all who are newly aware of a spiritual part of their being, the Israelites release from Egyptian captivity would require guidance without complete reliance upon the senses. For how can one journey using the very same thing one is attempting to leave behind? This is where the light of faith takes over and operates in silence and darkness as a guide, more so with a soul who is co-operative with God’s grace. The soul who is eager to advance in the spiritual life practices mortifying their earthly desires while developing a deep prayer life, which is their relationship with God. The soul’s reliance on the false props of sensual comforts and satisfied appetites diminishes as the soul’s spiritual life matures, at the same time love of God and neighbor grows with hope and charity. One by one the chains of desires fall away, and spiritual freedom blossoms. And he is set free from the hands of his enemies – “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” 2
Scripture shows God guiding Israel by the light of faith, while revealing how faith operates:
The Lord preceded them, in the day-time by means of a column of cloud to show them the way, and at night by means of a column of fire to give them light. Thus they could travel both by day and by night. Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of fire by night ever left its place in front of the people. Exodus 13: 21-22
It is rather contrary that a cloud could show them the way. Typically, clouds and fog disable navigation abilities. Preceding them as they marched forward, they certainly could not see ahead to use their own reasoning abilities, which is the point. But as the verse states, this was God’s means, his way, of leading Israel. The first line is the Lord himself showing them the way, which is to say spiritually, their reason (day) was darkened by the cloud, and in this darkness of their understanding, which is night, there was fire to give them guiding light. It is also amazing that “clouding the reason” could show the way; a paradox that unbelievers cannot grasp. This verse shows why faith is called “a dark night,” by illustrating no simultaneous coming of natural knowledge through reason, leaving the understanding in darkness. 3 This is God’s guidance – this is faith.
The next line tells us Israel’s journey does in fact include both reason and faith:
Thus they could travel both by day and by night:
day = reason, night = faith.
Interpreted naturally: Thus they could travel both in the daytime and nighttime. Interpreted spiritually: Thus they could travel both by reason and by faith.
Forms of guidance God provides the soul’s intellect include: Holy Scripture, a mentor, instruction, community. These assist the role of reason in the life of faith. Moses’ and Aaron’s instruction was directed at the Israelites’ sense of reason: Moses performed the signs in the sight of the people and Aaron spoke to the people, both under God’s instructions. 4 In the New Testament Jesus administers all three functions, as God himself teaching about the kingdom and performing miracles. But Jesus lays it down plainly that blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. 5 Belief rests on the power of God through faith, not human understanding, which is vulnerable to attacks of the devil, as we shall see.
In Moses we see the limitations of human help as he expressed to God multiple times his reluctance to lead the people; asking him, a bit prophetically, to send someone else. 6 Contrarily, we read of God’s unwavering response to his people’s walk of faith:
Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of fire by night ever left its place in front of the people.
Today is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Apostle. The Popes have faithfully shepherded the People of God, guiding them for over 2000 years since St. Peter, whose profession of faith to Jesus is the rock he built his Church upon. You can read Peter’s entire response to Jesus on the USCCB website:
We will reflect more upon the faculty of the understanding and its operations of reason, its corresponding theological virtue and God’s beacon the light of faith, faith’s role as gatherer of God’s people, and why it is a dark guide and guard toward eternal life.
The USCCB has not reviewed or approved my comments on the Biblical text