JOHN PAUL II
Psalm 18, God Creator creates brilliance of Sun
1. The sun, with its increasing brilliance in the heavens, the splendour of its light, the beneficial warmth of its rays, has captivated humanity from the outset. In many ways human beings have shown their gratitude for this source of life and well-being, with an enthusiasm that often reaches the peaks of true poetry. The wonderful psalm, 18, whose first part has just been proclaimed, is not only a prayerful hymn of extraordinary intensity; it is also a poetic song addessed to the sun and its radiance on the face of the earth. In this way the Psalmist joins the long series of bards of the ancient Near East, who exalted the day star that shines in the heavens, and which in their regions dominates with its burning heat. It reminds us of the famous hymn to Aton, composed by the Pharoah Akhnaton in the 14th century BC and dedicated to the solar disc regarded as a deity.
A common theme runs through both parts: God lights the world with the brilliance of the sun and illuminates humanity with the splendour of his word contained in biblical Revelation. It is almost like a double sun: the first is a cosmic epiphany of the Creator; the second is a free and historical manifestation of God our Saviour. It is not by chance that the Torah, the divine Word, is described with "solar" features: "The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes" (v. 9).
With the interior gaze of the soul, men and women can discover that the world is not dumb but speaks of the Creator when their interior spiritual vision, their religious intuition, is not taken up with superficiality. As the ancient sage says: "from the greatness and beauty of created things their original author is seen by analogy" (Wis 13,5). St Paul too, reminds the Romans that "ever since the creation of the world, his (God's) invisible perfections can be perceived with the intellect in the works that have been made by him" (Rom 1,20).
So the sun is compared to a bridegroom, a hero, a champion, who, by divine command, must perform a daily task, a conquest and a race in the starry spaces. And here the Psalmist points to the sun, blazing in the open sky, while the whole earth is wrapped in its heat, the air is still, no point of the horizon can escape its light.
The Roman liturgy is not as explicit as the Eastern in comparing Christ to the sun. Yet it describes the cosmic repercussions of his Resurrection, when it begins the chant of Lauds on Easter morning with the famous hymn: "Aurora lucis rutilat, caelum resultat laudibus, mundus exultans iubilat, gemens infernus ululat" - "The dawn has spread her crimson rays, And heaven rings with shouts of praise; The glad earth shouts her triumph high, And groaning hell makes wild reply".
Anyway, for those who have attentive ears and open eyes, creation is like a first revelation that has its own eloquent language: it is almost another sacred book whose letters are represented by the multitude of created things present in the universe. St John Chrysostom says: "The silence of the heavens is a voice that resounds louder than a trumpet blast: this voice cries out to our eyes and not to our ears, the greatness of Him who made them" (PG 49, 105). And St Athanasius says: "The firmament with its magnificence, its beauty, its order, is an admirable preacher of its Maker, whose eloquence fills the universe" (PG 27, 124).
Today I offer a special word of greeting to the Vietnamese priests and religious from various countries participating in a spirituality programme, and to the priest graduates of Kenrick Seminary in Saint Louis celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary of ordination: may the light of the Risen Saviour continue to guide and strengthen you so that you may always bear effective witness to his mercy and love. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially those from Denmark, Japan and the United States of America, I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.