The Sight to Be Blind

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This installment of my early church fathers paraphrases comes from St. Hilary of Poitiers. For more information on his life, please visit my previous paraphrase from him.

This selection comes from the tenth book of his work “On the Trinity.”

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Understanding God comes about by faith. The search into his mysteries is bounded by our reverence and bordered by our worship to him. It is not our part in our frailty to strive and strain at that brilliance which could only blind us.

Stare too long into the sun, and your sight will be ruined. The gleaming of a light catches the eye and turns the head, but linger a minute more with the source of the brightness in an attempt to plumb its depths and your gaze may leave you forever. The paradox is this- in trying to see too much, you only end up seeing nothing at all.

If such a comparably insignificant light as the sun wreaks this kind of havoc, how much more will the Sun of Righteousness, God himself? Wisdom would be sought; foolishness the recompense for the quest. The lamp of intelligence would be snuffed out in the surrounding brilliance, leaving the mind in darkness.

God’s nature is higher than ours, and strains ours to capacity without even trying. The lower cannot contain the higher, nor the finite mind apprehend the infinite, for if it could, the infinite would be as limited as that which perceives and surrounds it. As it stands, God’s power shoots far beyond a human’s means of measurement.

If a band is stretched to its length, stretching further only makes it weaker; not only is it no longer, but now it could snap at any moment. The mind may try to understand the things of heaven, but in the straining may no longer see divine things, but be only blinded by them.

No mind can wrap itself around the infinite or the divine, but turns on its master by succumbing to further foolishness, being made duller than when it started. We need to wear our sunglasses to perceive the sun in even a small way. But take them off, and the parts of the sun we could see become impossible, because we expect too much of our eyes.

Likewise, we can only expect and hope to understand God as much as he has allowed us to; in moving beyond we lose even this. For there is something of God that we can see, if only we are content to fix our eyes upon that without desiring to go beyond. As we can see something of the sun with sunglasses, but are blinded and lose everything if we try to perceive more of the brilliance, so it is with the brightness of God’s nature.

If you wish to understand some of God you can, but if you try to move past the boundaries of what is possible, you will not even attain what is close at hand.

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Jason Watson

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