The Obscure Light of Faith


Presence of God – Teach me to believe, O Lord, even in darkness and obscurity; teach me to believe by relying only on Your word.


Through its own efforts, the human mind is able to attain to a knowledge of God the Creator by considering created things; it can know His existence and even some of His perfections, but it cannot attain to the mystery of His intimate life which is beyond the knowledge of creatures, if God Himself does not raise it to this knowledge. God alone knows the mysteries of His intimate life, of the communication of this life to man, and He alone can reveal it. Divine revelation enables us to “know” with certainty that such realities exist, and yet, it does not enable us to “see” them; it tells us that God is Triune, but it does not show us the Trinity. It makes us know that God gives us grace, but we cannot see grace. Precisely because we do not see, to adhere to divine mysteries we must believe trustingly in God who has revealed them to us; and this is just what constitutes the act of faith. Faith is certain because it relies on the word of God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived; in this sense we can say that faith is clear, “free from ZurbaranStJohnoftheCrosserrors” (John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle 12,3), admitting no doubt, since no one can doubt God’s word. But at the same time, it remains obscure, because it does not show us the truths which it proposes for our belief and, therefore, they remain mysteries to us. Let us remember the pitcher that contains a lighted but invisible lamp. This obscure side of faith is, at the same time, both painful and glorious for us. It is painful because we cannot see what we believe, painful because an act of faith often exacts a leap in the dark, a thing repugnant to human nature which likes to be in control, to know what it is doing, and to proceed on known facts. The more elevated supernatural realities are, the greater is their obscurity–even darkness–to the intellect, which is incapable of proceeding without the aid of the senses, and incapable of embracing the infinite. On the other hand, however, it is this very obscurity which constitutes the merit and glory of our act of faith: merit, because it is a wholly supernatural act based not on what we can see and verify, but solely on what God has revealed to us; glory, because our act of faith gives all the more glory and honor to God, the more it relies solely on His word.


“O blessed faith, you are certain but you are also obscure. You are obscure because you make us believe truths revealed by God Himself, and which transcend all natural light. Your excessive light, radiance of the divine truths, becomes for me thick darkness because the greater overwhelms the lesser, even as the light of the sun overwhelms all other lights and even exceeds my power of vision.

“You are dark night for the soul and, as night, you illumine it like that dark cloud which lighted the way in the night for the children of Israel. Yes, although you are a dark cloud, your darkness gives light to the darkness of my soul. So I too can say: the night will be my illumination in my delights. In the way of pure contemplation and union with God, your night, O faith, will be my guide.

“Make me comprehend, O Lord, that to be joined in union with You I must not walk by understanding, neither may I lean upon experience or feeling or imagination, but I must believe in Your infinite Being, which is not perceptible to my understanding nor to any other sense” (cf. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel II, 3,1-6 – 4,4).

“O faith, you are the great friend of our spirit, and to the human sciences which boast that they are more evident than you are, you can well say what the Spouse said to her companions: ‘I am black but beautiful.’ You are black because you are in the obscurity of the divine revelations, which, having no apparent evidence, make you appear black, and almost unrecognizable; but yet you are beautiful in yourself because of your infinite certainty” (cf. St. Francis de Sales).

“Only the beautiful light of faith can light my way to You, O God. The Psalmist sings, ‘You made darkness Your covert’ and then, in another place he seems to contradict himself by saying, ‘You are clothed with light as with a garment.’ This apparent contradiction seems to me to mean that I must plunge into the sacred darkness, keeping all my powers in night and emptiness; then I shall meet You, O my Master, and the light that clothes You as a garment will envelop me also; for You desire Your bride to be shining with Your light, and Yours alone” (Elizabeth of the Trinity Last Retreat 4).



Note from Dan: This post on “The Obscure Light of Faith” is provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contains one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.

Art: St. John of the CrossFrancisco de Zurbarán, 1656, CC-PD, Wikimedia Commons; Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.

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