The other day after Mass I got into a conversation with a certain man who had endless questions. He was inspiring in a way, in that grace had put a devout curiosity into his mind and he was running with it.
One of the things that interested him was the idea you hear sometimes about a certain light that is experienced near or at the moment of death. He wanted to know whether I believed in this light, and what I thought it was. I had to say that I hadn't thought about it much, but the conversation came back to me when I was praying through St. Irenaeus in the Office of Readings this morning: "...to follow the light is to enjoy the light. Those who are in the light do not illuminate the light but are themselves enlightened by the light. They add nothing to the light; rather, they are beneficiaries, for they are enlightened by the light."
Maybe it's not that the light comes for us at our death. Maybe the light is here now, but we are insensitive to it, its visibility obscured by our distraction, confusion, and sin.
Perhaps it's not that the light appears at the moment of our death, but that the occasion of our death provides a finality and clarity that allows us to see the light that was always there. Death is the end of personal history, the moment at which our existence ceases to be subject to any revision; we have been who we have been, and there is no longer any changing it. No more choice for good, whether in heroic virtue or in the unglamorous little moments of charity out of which true love is built, and no more surrendering to the law of sin and death, by which we insist on our alienation and misery in so many ways. Perhaps the clarity provided by this finality, this done-ness, clears enough of our distraction away so that we may see the light that was always there.
The good news is that we can follow the light without being able to make it out clearly. We can be enlightened by it even though it still seems invisible. Though this interior illumination remains obscure for us in this life, my suspicion and my hope is that the light revealed at death will be recognized as the same illumination, only more clearly and fully visible.
May the Light from Light, as cloudy as his illumination may seem to me now with all of my distraction, confusion, and sin, not only enlighten my soul but set it aflame with the Love for which I and every creature was first spoken into existence.