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“To Clear the Mental Ray:” Advent and Transformed Vision

Every year I hope for this season to be full of life-transforming meaning, and every year, I feel like I barely grasp hold of some fleeting thoughts about the season before we’re suddenly unwrapping presents, shouting Happy New Year, and back to work.

What I’m hoping for, what I feel like I miss year after year, is an Advent and Christmas season which is “eye-opening.” St. John said Jesus’ coming into the world “enlightens everyone.” Jesus himself said that our eye is the lamp of the body; a good eye results in a body filled with light.

In other words, we have a vision problem. We don’t see God, ourselves, or the world rightly. The Pharisees didn’t see it rightly. Herod didn’t see it rightly. We don’t either. Philip Doddridge recognized the need for a transformed vision when he penned his Advent hymn, “Hark the Glad Sound, the Savior Comes”:

He comes from thickest films of vice To clear the mental ray, And on the eyes oppressed with night To pour celestial day.

Advent is remembering the darkness that preceded the light, the oppressive night that preceded the celestial day. It’s about the gaining of a transformed vision – the kind of thing that turns upside down the way we look at the world and the way we live in it. I’m praying this is not another Advent that goes by in a blur, for blurred vision is all that will result.

Though as usual, I have to catch myself in my tendency toward “doing.” There’s not a thing I can do to clear my own vision. That transformative work is done by God and God alone. It’s work that is done to us and in us. We’re not simply passive, for it’s our own imaginations that are being exercised. And we choose whether or not to place ourselves in the imaginative spaces in which the mental ray can be cleared to see rightly. But nothing blurs the vision worse than believing I can fix my own eyesight.

To all this I’d add one final thought. The best stories produce a transformed vision. S. T. Coleridge, to whom all our beloved fantasy authors should be traced, believed that great stories are icons of reality, that the imaginative work done in the stories is a way of knowing and understanding the world. Of course, all of the best stories are echoes of the best story, the one that starts with Advent.

We’re at the beginning, once again, of the story of Christ, the story of us all.

My prayer for myself and all the Rabbit Roomers is that the eyes of our hearts are open, so that as we move through this story once again over the coming year, we see Christ and are transformed by Him.

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