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The Word on the Week

Newgrange

Annually on the morning of 21st December crowds gather at this megalithic monument in Co Meath to witness the sunrise on the shortest day of the year.

This year the crowds were larger than ever but the sun didn’t turn up. In fact as one little girl reported “this is the 4th year we have had no sun!”

The sun is, of course, the main player in the drama. Its appearance as it rises over the neighbouring hill sends a shaft of light, through the roof-box, directly above the entrance and down the 19 metre passage to illuminate the 3 burial chambers.

This meeting of the celestial with the terrestrial would have worked perfectly 5,000 years ago but, with the earth now tilted 10 degrees the shaft of light (when the sun shines) doesn’t make it to the chambers but hits the passage floor.

The Department of Works have taken cognisance of our weather and the earth’s tilt and thoughtfully installed electric lights. These do the job of enabling the worshippers to see where they are going but lack something of the spiritual content provided by the sunbeams!

Many archaeologists believe that the monument was used as a place of worship for a “cult of the dead” or for an astronomically based faith.  It is clear that the monument is build around the sun enabling its penetration of the earth and illuminating its darkest place on the pivotal day of the year.

Assuming their weather was similar to ours there must have been a lot of frustrated worshippers in megalithic times!

What light can the Bible throw on these matters?

Isaiah the prophet has written regarding Jesus, “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (chapter 49 verse 6) and St John had no doubt that with the coming of Jesus this was being fulfilled, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world (chapter 1 verse 9).

We are attracted to the light, that is, unless we have something to hide. A little light would suffice us, once a year, to dispel a bit of darkness as St John wryly remarked, “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil (chapter 3 verse 19).

The good news is that God has penetrated this world not on a sunbeam but in Jesus. He came to give life to the spiritually dead which is our natural state. He rescues us by introducing us to the light and granting us sight. As St Paul put it, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians chapter 4 verses 4-6).

As we celebrate the coming of the Christ child let us open our hearts to receive His Spirit that He may come to us and fill our lives with His light.