According to the Bible, Jesus said: “I Am the light of the world” (John 8: 12).
During Transfiguration on the top of Mount Tabor where Jesus revealed Himself to the three disciples, Peter, James, and John, “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Matt 17: 2).
God the most merciful and whose love we cannot fathom, gave humans brain ability and sufficient wisdom to study nature and learn valuable lessons, as in Natural Theology. The most valuable to learn is what brings us closer to our Creator. Studying “light” within the scientific knowledge available in the 21st century could bring us closer to a glimpse of the nature of God. There is nothing in the visible world like God, and however eloquent words might be used, they will never come any near to fully describe The Almighty. Yet this does not stop us humans from doing our best to approach the issue with care and trepidation.
Here is an attempt to describe light in a way that hopefully would make our understanding of God just that bit clearer and closer.
Contemplating the physical characteristics of light leads to some significant indications.
- There are three colours: green, red, and blue, which if mixed in equal quantities bring about pure white colour. This gives an analogy to the Trinity: Three in One, One in Three. Mixing of colours in unequal quantities does not produce pure white. Isaac Newton in 1672, was the first to pass a beam of light through a prism leading to rainbow colours. Several analogies may be put forward to help understand the Trinity. Examples are the triangle; the sun, formed of the physical body radiating light and heat; man, constituted of body, spirit, and soul; egg, made up of yoke, white, and shell; water is still water in the form of liquid, frozen solid, and steam. The analogy of the three colours when combined leading to white is a vivid one. The Trinity manifested during the baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan River, is the ultimate “Epiphany” (Matthew 3:16-17).
- In Biology, the eye sees colour through the cones in the retina. There are three types of cones that are sensitive to: green, red, and blue; the combination of these three colour signals in the brain is perceived as white in the occipital cortex. Again, here is a representation of the Trinity.
- Light, when tested, behaves as waves and also as physical particles (Quantum Mechanics). The waves are electro-magnetic in nature; and the physical particles (matter) are made of photons; a duality. The electro-magnetic waves are not seen but the photons are what we see. The electro-magnetic fields are analogous to the Divine nature of Christ, not seen; and the photon in this representation points to the Human nature of Christ, that is seen. There were endless discussions and arguments for many years about the duality of light. Einstein, though one of the founders of the Quantum Theory, found it difficult to accept that duality. However, eventually the scientific community came to accept these findings as evidence mounted in its favour. This is reminiscent of the discussions regarding Christology and the duality of Christ’s nature, especially at the early ecumenical councils.
- In experiments, light may manifest as an invisible electro-magnetic wave or as visible photons, depending on the experiment. And as experiments depend on the experimenter, the result is sometimes presented depending on the observer. And this is the case with seekers when they study and contemplate on Christ. Some would dwell on Christ as a prophet with a great message. But Christ is more than that, He is the incarnate Son of God who, as St Athanasius wrote in the 4th century “He became what we are that we might become what He is” (The Incarnation of the Word).
- We recognise stars in the sky by their light. They could be thousands or even millions of LIGHT years away. Light once emitted from these far away objects eventually reaches us and carries on indefinitely. God is Light and He is infinite. He has no beginning and no end, Hebrews 7:3, “having neither beginning of days, nor end of life”.
- The speed of light is constant (James Maxwell, speed of light, 1865; and Albert Einstein, Special Relativity Theory, 1905). God is always the same, Malachi 3:6 “For I am the Lord, I change not”.
- Light is triune in nature: the electric and magnetic components travel perpendicular to each other (Maxwell); and the photons (Einstein) are the visible spectrum. In The Creed that we recite starts with: “We believe in one God”, and then we proceed to proclaim the Trinity. The Trinity was revealed to us in the New Testament, though there are pointers to it in the Old Testament.
- When white light shines on an object it shows its real colour, an apple is red, and an orange is orange. Whereas any coloured light falling on an object will give it a hue different from its real nature. God knows exactly who we really are. People could try to change their colour according to circumstances and situations, but God knows the truth. We could try to deceive others, even deceive ourselves, but never be able to deceive God. Jeremiah 17:10, “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”
- God illuminates the spiritual life; and light illuminates the physical world.
Worth repeating is that there is nothing like God and any analogy is mere contemplation. The real nature of God is mysterious, and we humans cannot fully understand or comprehend this mystery. And as mere humans we should contend with the fact that there are questions which we would not know the answers for.
Dr Ahmes Labib Pahor, PhD, FRCS, FICS. Freedom of The City of London.
19 January 2023