Sometimes stories are too long to reflect on very thoroughly, but very worth sharing. For those who wonder what to think/believe of such a fantastic story, I would recommend an earlier reflection of mine: “Hang Your Cloak Upon a Sunbeam.”
Of the angelic splendour of the light which Virgnous-a youth of good disposition, and afterwards made by God superior of this Church in which I, though unworthy, now serve-saw coming down upon St. Columba in the Church, on a winter’s night, when the brethren were at rest in their chambers.
ONE winter’s night the forementioned Virgnous, burning with the love of God, entered the church alone to pray, while the others were asleep; and he prayed fervently in a little side chamber attached to the walls of the oratory. After a considerable interval, as it were of an hour, the venerable Columba entered the same sacred house, and along with him, at the same time, a golden light, that came down from the highest heavens and filled that part of the church. Even the separate recess of the side-chamber, where Virgnous was striving to hide himself as much as he could, was also filled, to his great alarm, with some of the brilliance of that heavenly light which burst through the inner-door of the chamber, that was a little open. And as no one can look directly at, or gaze with steady eye on, the summer sun in his mid-day splendour, so Virgnous could not at all bear this heavenly brightness which he saw, because of the brilliant and unspeakable radiance which overpowered his sight. The brother spoken of was so much terrified by the splendour, almost as dreadful as lightning, that no strength remained in him. But, after a short prayer, St. Columba left the church. And the next day he sent for Virgnous, who was very much alarmed, and spoke to him these few consoling words: “Thou art crying to good purpose, my child, for last night thou wert very pleasing in the sight of God by keeping thine eyes fixed on the ground when thou wert overwhelmed with fear at the brightness, for hadst thou not done so, that priceless light would have blinded thine eyes. This, however, thou must carefully
observe never to disclose this great manifestation of light while I live.” This circumstance, therefore, which is so wonderful and so worthy of record, became known to many after the saint’s death through this same Virgnous’s relating it. Comman, sister’s son to Virgnous, a respected priest, solemnly assured me, Adamnan, of the truth of the vision I have just described, and he added, moreover, that he heard the story from the lips of the abbot Virgnous, his own uncle, who, as far as he could, had seen that vision.
~ St. Adamnan, Life of St. Columba (ColumCille), 3.20
“That priceless light”—sometimes just a phrase like that is so packed full of beauty and meaning.
It is priceless—not to imply that I have “seen” it in the sense above myself—because it cannot be bought or sold. It is priceless because it is invaluably worthy of our esteem and desire. It is priceless because in it one finds true happiness, peace, and joy.
It is light because it illumines our souls. It is light because it drives away the darkness of sin. It is light—it alone and truly so—because compared to the light of God all else is darkness. It is light because by it the pure in heart see God.
I’d be happy to be Virgnous, frankly, yet even he had a vision of this light—even if he had to avert his gaze—because “burning with the love of God” he “entered the church alone to pray” and “prayed fervently.” Now that’s something I can try to do from time to time, if only I have rightly valued “that priceless light.”