Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
All laud we would render; O help us to see
’Tis only the splendour of light hideth Thee.
Walter Chalmers Smith.
John Betjeman commented on the first line of this hymn, ‘Happily wisdom isn’t the only attribute of God – clever people can be very tiresome.’ He has a point: all the apocalyptic imagery here can be off-putting. Nevertheless, I return to the last line, ‘only the splendour of light hideth Thee.’ Light pollution can be physical but also mental and spiritual.
Like Newman, we should be wary of the garish day, and join Vaughan, deciphering the glimmers in the night sky – after all, until GPS came in the stars were used for navigation, even leading the Wise Men to Jesus. If it is dark outside, may we trust with Therese and John of the Cross, who ‘had neither guide nor light, except the one shining in my heart’, who will lead us home.