Once I read a set of “Adorations to the Sun,” that purported to be a translation of the prayers the Egyptians offered to their sun-god, Ra, at sunrise, noon, sunset and midnight.
While all four possessed great power and beauty, my favorite was the one offered at sunset. It begins with these lines of praise:
“Glory be to Thee, O Lord of Life, for Thy joy flows out to the ends of the universe.”
In the hearts of the Egyptians, the nature of the light streaming forth from the sun, the lord of life, was joy.
Contrary to popular understanding, it wasn’t the physical sun the Egyptians worshiped. Our sky’s light-giving orb, indeed the powerhouse for all life on earth, was simply an outer symbol of an ineffable, benevolent, life-giving power they called “the sun behind the sun.” And how wondrous that they identified the essence of its animating spirit as joy – ceaseless, eternally flowing joy!
I remembered this story today when I went out, after a rather trying day at work, to look for a photo for my photo project. All day, deep, colorless clouds had blanketed the sky. The temperatures had dropped to just a few degrees above freezing, and a light rain was starting to fall as I grabbed my camera and left the warmth of my car.
It’s the height of the fall season here, and heaps of orange and gold leaves were scattered beneath my feet. As I looked at them through my camera, I was suddenly spellbound by their beauty. Their dazzling hues transported me to another dimension of being where everything that greeted my eyes was vibrantly, joyously alive. The wind and rain invigorated me. The wild rustling of leaves overhead sounded like a symphony. I saw birds gliding on the great currents of wind as if they were skateboarding through the sky.
Poking out from behind a rusty old bridge support, I spotted a shout of red and saw that a little clump of pink fall flowers was rising from the midst of the foliage. And when I stooped to look closely, I saw a dozen golden suns peering up me from center of the sunset-pink petals.
That’s when the lines from the adoration sang in my mind: “Thy joy flows out to the ends of the universe.” All the way to this small cluster of flowers, to these autumn leaves strewn on the ground, to these eyes of mine, seeing their beauty, to this heart of mine, overwhelmed now with the awesome joy of it all. Glory be to Thee, indeed, O Lord of Life, to the sun behind the sun, by whatever name we know Thee.