I have been encountering mirrors lately. So, I thought I would reflect on them a little (pun intended). As I have considered them it occurs to me that mirrors can be a great aid to understanding the themes of Theophany which are to: “receive the light, ever more fully live in the light, and continue to be becoming more fully bearers of the light by the grace of the Holy Spirit.”
Let me rephrase and expand this statement a little in terms of the Orthodox gospel reading for the feast, the baptism of Jesus. The baptismal narrative is multifaceted. Basically, but not exclusively, the baptism of Our Lord is concerned with:
- revelation and repentance
- the universal and the personal character of salvation – the light of Christ is offered freely to each and to all
- how the inner and outer life of man is purified and shines with the radiance of the glory of Christ
What, in essence, are mirrors? They are communicative instruments. They communicate by reflecting. This fact is both an accurate representation of the work of the Holy Spirit and, I believe, a conviction that is a misunderstanding of His work.
First, the misunderstanding. I have heard the analogy of the disciple as a mirror many many times in sermons and retreats. (I may, unfortunately, have used it myself. I can’t remember.) Essentially, the analogy is one that seeks to communicate the importance of being a light to the world – “let your light so shine before men…” So far, so go. However, the analogy breaks down at this point. A mirror is not inhabited by the light. A mirror is not united with the light – without separation and without confusion. The mirror is unaffected by the light. The light simply bounces off the mirror. That is how it “shines” or “offers light to the world.” We are not supposed to be mirrors of the glory of God. We are intended to, by grace, actually become light to the world. It is Christ in union with His Body who are part of the entire light that God offers to the world. (God’s creation and the bodiless hosts also shine with the light of His glory according to their kind.) There is a BIG difference.
Now the accurate representation. Mirrors reflect. In terms of the disciple. Life is the mirror. God holds the mirror in such a way as to have what it is reflecting off of it point directly into our eyes. The nitty gritty circumstances, relationships, our deeds, our words, and inner landscape that make up our life act, quite often, as a mirror. They reflect. They reflect many things but I am going to focus my attention on just two things. The most important thing they reflect is God. And, because they reflect God, they show us to us. We have the opportunity to really behold ourselves. The important question of the Theophany season is, “Will we receive what we are shown, allow what is shown to change and establish us in Christ, and allow the light of Christ Himself to shine forth from us into the lives of others?” (see James 1.23 and 1 Corinthians 13.12)
There are several ways of responding to the us we behold in the mirror. Think, for a minute, about what you do when you see your image reflected in a mirror of some kind. What process do you go through? Some questions:
- Do you say, “Man I’m good! As a matter of fact, I’m the best!”
- Do you instantly look yourself over and adjust things so you will “look better” to/for others?
- Do you see a finished product or a work in progress?
- Do you see possibilities or impossibilities?
- Is looking in the mirror a prelude to trying harder or trusting acceptance?
- Do you receive the image you see as an indication of the truth that brings with it an opportunity to delight in aspects of what you see that are the very living Christ Himself within you as well as realize an opportunity to grow in other aspects of your life where you do not see Christ?
- Is beholding an opportunity to condemn or delight?
Mirrors are a very good example of how Theophany works. It is a time to see. To see what is revealed – the truth in Christ Jesus. Where is Theophany taking us? Straight into Great Lent ! ! Lent is the season devoted to faithfully addressing what we see in the mirror by the grace of God. The journey of transformation includes delight as well as sorrow – a joyful sorrow. It is a season in which we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in establishing those areas that shine with the glory of Christ and addressing those that do not. We see Christ and we don’t see Christ. We learn how to rightly handle the truth that God shines directly into our eyes.
Onward, in due course, toward Great Lent walking in the light …