December 17th. Sunrise at 8:50 am, sunset at 3:50 pm. When you see the sun go down you feel like it’s the end of the world. It feels like it — it’s going to be pitch dark till the next morning. But in the morning I will go jogging in the woods drinking in every ray of sunshine that penetrates the pine forest. The sunlit tree tops swaying in the blue sky will make my heart happy. The sun will smile. It always does. At least here, in Siberia.
I don’t know if it smiles or frowns at people in Africa. But here it certainly smiles. Here it’s very easy to fall down and worship the sun. That’s exactly what our ancestors, the early Slavs, did. And not because they depended on the sun for their harvest — anyone who looks at the sun understands in his gut that there’s not just light but also life streaming out of it. There’s some form of grace coming down upon us.
At the root of all pagan religions is the intuition that the world is alive. Air, water, sky, stars, earth, mountains, rocks are not just objects — they are vessels of Life. Water doesn’t just flow, it sings. Clouds do not just fly over, they adorn and array the skies with ever changing patterns. The sun does not just burn, it gives life. Rocks are not just there — they witness, and sometimes even cry out.
Ancient pagan cults deified the created things, and they had their reasons. Without the knowledge of one true God one can’t help deifying that which bears His fingerprints. In the words of Peter Kreeft, “he who has never been tempted to worship the sun cannot properly worship its Creator”. We live in the world of shadows, hints and overtones. And those shadows, hints and overtones seem to suggest the shape of true reality.
If we are sensitive enough we can’t help feeling the irresistible attraction of the sun, the moon, the sea, the forest, human beings, music —all of creation. And we, just like our ancestors, might feel the urge to worship these things. You must be a stone not to adore the adorable.
However, when you see the sun go down in the East, your heart is full of longing and the unspoken plea: “Come back soon!” You also know quite well that when the suns actually comes back in the morning in all its regal glory, you will not get what you really want. Yes, I will see the sun tomorrow, my heart will leap for a moment or two, but my imagination seems to foretell a much greater and deeper joy than the sun can ever bestow. My imagination yearns for the encounter with the true Sun.
Imagine yourself stranded on a magical island. As you start exploring it you have a strange sensation that everything around you is tailor-made just for you. But you see no one around. There’s always food to spare, places to see, beauty to enjoy. You are well-pleased with what you see, hear and taste but after a while you start feeling something is lacking. All the wonders you see are adorable but empty in the final analysis, and so you want to see the one who made it all. The more you praise the wonders of the magical island the less satisfactory they appear. You realize you must see the One behind them all.
The “magical island” experience is what our intuition tells us of the true knowledge of God. This is what is missing in paganism. The creation may reflect the Creator but no created thing, praiseworthy as it may be, will satisfy our hearts. We must see Him.
Yes, I do want to see the sun tomorrow. Bright, cheering, warm on my face. And it will come. But when it comes my heart will want more. It can’t help but want more. It will be longing and yearning — not for the sun, but for the True Sun. Not for music, but for the true Hymn. Not for mountains, but for Things That Are Above. Not for the sea but for The Fathomless Deep. Not for the stars but for the Morning Star. Not for summer but for the Year of God’s favor. Not for Christmas holidays but for the Heavenly Banquet. Not for the blue skies but for Heaven. Not for a man, but for the Godman.
Every wonder that captivates on earth is a call for our hearts to search the One hidden in the heart of the magical land we live in. No matter how wonderful the wonders are, they leave us empty. We need more. We need to look in the eyes of The Sun and then we will know we are home.