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Sacred Signs
by Romano Guardini

LIGHT AND HEAT



THE heart's deepest need makes us long for union with God. Two

paths lead to this union, two separate paths, though they end at

the same goal. The first is the path of knowledge and love. This

path our own souls point out to us. The other we know only

because Christ has shown it to us.



The act of knowing is an act of union. By knowledge we penetrate

the nature of an object and make the object our own. We mentally

absorb it, and it becomes part and parcel of ourselves. Love is

also an act of union, of union, and not merely of the desire of

union. It is an actual union, for so much of a thing as we love

that much belongs to us. Since there are more ways than one of

loving, we call this kind "spiritual" love. But the word is not

quite right, since it also applies to the other mode of union by

the second path I spoke of. The difference is that while this

first instinctive kind of love effects a union, it does not, as

the other does, join being with being. It is union by conscious

knowledge and willed intention.



Does any material form exist that provides a likeness for such a

union? There does; the very wonderful one of light and heat.



Our eyes, without approaching or touching it, see and take in the

candle flame. Eyes and candle remain where they were, and yet a

union is effected. It is not a union of mingling and absorption,

but the chaste and reverent union of the soul with God by

knowledge. Since, as Scripture says, God is truth, and since

whoever knows the truth, mentally possesses it, so by right

knowledge of him our minds possess God. God is present in the

intellect whose thoughts of him are true. This is what is meant

by "knowing God," To know God is to be one with him as the eye

becomes one with the candle flame by looking at it.



But the light of the candle flame cannot be separated from its

heat. Though again the candle remains where it was, we feel on

our cheek or the back of our hand a radiating warmth.



This union of heat is a likeness for the union between us and the

Divine Flame by love. God is good. Whoever loves the good

possesses it spiritually, for the good becomes ours by our loving

it. Just so much of goodness as we love, just that much do we

possess. "God," as Saint John tells us, "is love. And he that

abideth in love abideth in God, and God in him." To know, to love

God, is to be one with him; and our eternal beatitude will

consist in looking upon God and loving him. Looking, loving, does

not mean that we stand hungering in his presence, but that to our

innermost depths we are filled and satisfied.



Flame, which is a figure for the soul, is also a figure for the

living God; for "God is light and in him there is no darkness."

As the flame radiates light so God radiates truth, and the soul

by receiving truth is united with God, as our eyes by seeing its

light are united with the flame. And, as the flame radiates heat,

so does God radiate the warmth of goodness; and as the hand and

the cheek by perceiving the warmth become one with the flame, so

whoever loves God becomes one with him in goodness. But also,

just as the candle remains free and disengaged in its place, so

does God abide unmoved "dwelling in unapproachable light."



Flame, emitting light, emitting heat, is an image to us of the

living God.



All this comes very much home to us on Holy Saturday when the

Easter candle, which symbolizes Christ; is lighted. Three times,

each time in a higher tone, the deacon sings "Lumen Christi," and

then lights the Pascal candle. At once every lamp and candle in

the church is lighted from it, and the whole building is alight

and aglow with the radiance and warmth of God's presence.














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