Barry McGuire, My Daughter, and the Moon

The moon has cast a spell over the human race since the time when we could look up and observe its haunting face shining in the night sky. Shifting, changing, waxing, waning, luminous with a beauty which pierces the heart, it has captured us for as long as history has been recorded, and longer. The righteous Job felt the temptation to worship the moon, though he had the orthodox sense to refuse: “If I have looked at the moon moving in splendour and my heart has been secretly enticed and my mouth has kissed my hand, this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges, for I should have been false to God above” (Job 31:26-28). He didn’t kiss his hand and blow the kiss to the moon in adoration, though clearly he felt the temptation.

If Job felt this as a temptation, no wonder most others in his day worshipped the moon as a deity. In 1984, when she was a young child but two years old, my eldest daughter first looked up at the moon’s full face in the night sky and said, “Daddy! Da moon!” She could scarcely pronounce the diphthong “th”, but like the rest of us she had been captured by that haunting orb, and her own heart, not yet even three summers old, had been pierced by a beauty the earth could not afford, a beauty found only found in the heavens. Modern poets, like lovers in every generation, found that when they thought of swooning over their true love in June, it was always under the moon. The moon was not just a rock orbiting the earth as it orbited the sun. It was a goddess, an image of celestial beauty, an ineffable longing, an unattainable desire. When Solomon searched for an image to describe his true love, he spoke of her as “fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners” (Songs 6:10). Note: the sun might be bright, but it was the moon that was fair. Such painful beauty did not shine during the day. The sun might give life; but it was the moon that provided a beauty which could pierce the heart and transfigure the world. And (‘fess up, guys), what man does not catch sight of the full moon peaking shyly through the clouds and not be irresistibly reminded of his own true love?

In 1975, at the height of the Jesus People Movement, Barry McGuire (of “Eve of Destruction” fame) gave a concert with other Jesus People singers. At this concert, he said the following:  “A brother in the band was reading in the Word one morning, and he was getting all excited…He said, ‘It says here, “He set the sun to rule the day, and He put a lesser light, the moon, to rule the night.” That’s like us, man. When it’s night-time you can’t see the sun because it’s dark out. That’s the way it is in the world with people who don’t know God. They can’t see God, because they’re living in darkness. But they can see the reflection of God shining through the lives of His people.’ He said, “We’re like the moon.’” Barry got it right away. He responded, “O Lord, I want to be a full moon!”

I never appreciated until I became Orthodox how wonderfully exceptional it was for an American Protestant Christian in the Jesus People Movement to interpret the Scriptures in a way that would have done proud any Byzantine Christian trained in the allegorical method exemplified by Origen and his Alexandrian followers. Jesus People were schooled and drilled in rejecting anything but the plain, literal, and surface meaning of the Scriptures, but here was a brother in the band mining the Genesis creation stories for its inner spiritual meaning. For him the moon was not a hunk of rock orbiting the earth. It was an image of God’s people, shining with a reflected glory, a divine light that came from God and illumining those in the world who could not bear the direct intensity of His glory. Flesh and blood had not revealed this to that brother in the band, but his Father who was in heaven.

As it turns out, the beguiling, seducing, haunting beauty of the moon which has captivated generations since the world began calls us to imitate that divine beauty. The world may not be able to see the beauty of God reflected in His creation. For multitudes living the world who don’t know God, a forest is just a forest, and they literally cannot see the forest for the trees. The stars are just balls of gas, burning in the heavens, the sea is just countless gallons of salt water, and Science has killed Poetry. Fact has trampled on the face of Beauty, and the heavens no longer declare the glory of God. They cannot see the glory of God in His world. But they can still see us. We need to reflect the divine beauty, and by our lives of kindness, compassion, and heroic sacrifice for the truth, become the reflected glory of God in the world. In 2017, as you may have noticed, it’s very dark out. People cannot see God, because they’re living in darkness. But they can still see the moon, and be illumined by its reflected light. We’re like the moon. May we be a full moon, and may God’s ineffable beauty capture the world through us, and save the world.

5 comments:

  1. Father…what started as a wonderful day today at Church, afterwards fellowship, then a meal at a friend’s house, ended for me in distress…all over a comment. The person (from Church!) expressed their hatred toward people of a certain religion…all of them, each and every one…said they want nothing to do with them and think of them as non-entities, evil, non-persons. They lean heavily on their political affiliation, listen avidly to certain news casts, and are emotionally attached to each move made in the political scene. It is obvious they are parroting their affiliates. Although I am well aware of their attachments, I did not realize it’s extent. So I was surprised at the comment, but not utterly. There was a not too short discussion with much disagreement and it’s ending was tense. Now, after reading your post, I am saddened even more. I want to convince myself that this is an “exception to the rule”…but is it? Do all of us reflect Christ in us as we should? I know I don’t. I don’t know what else to say here, but thank you for this article. Right now I can’t even find the right words to pray, except Lord have mercy on us and save us. Yes Father, it is dark out there…everywhere.

    1. I have no idea how many people reflect Christ as they should. I only know that I agree with Barry McGuire in my desire to reflect him as fully as I can. Part of this reflection involves a refusal to look around and look at others, gauging their success or non-success at reflecting him. My focus is on the celestial beauty of the Sun of Righteousness, not at the success or failure of those called to reflect His light. May God bless you as you continue to look at Him and His glory.

      1. I wasn’t gauging their success or failure. I was merely reflecting . It was a distressing conversation. Guess you had to be there.

    2. Paula, if you and Father Lawrence will indulge me I will suggest a way of thinking about this experience. The RC priest and founder of First Things magazine Fr. Richard John Neuhaus used to talk about a secular inversion in a way that I have found very helpful (not sure this framework originated with him but I learned it from him):

      Politics rests on culture, and culture rests on religion.

      That is the truth of the matter and how most people throughout history understood it. In the modern world however, we have reversed it so that:

      Religion rests on culture, and culture rests on politics.

      This means that the deep things of life, God, and community are not at root a religious question, but a political one. In our current religious/cultural/political situation here in North America (western civilization), this inversion is found BOTH on the right and the left. Obviously, Marx and the left in general promoted (quite explicitly) this inversion, but (a little) less obviously the right also does so in a “moralistic” sense. The reason is that both are equally secularized and the inversion is but a reflection of the deeper secularization of western Christendom (our “post Christian” world).

      What all this means is that it is very very difficult (truly, this can hardly be overemphasized) for even otherwise ascetically striving, “good” people in our culture not to be trapped and seduced into a very “political” understanding of persons and conflict on the abstract level of “the conflict between civilizations”. When things are at bottom political, that means *people* are at bottom political and thus the Imago Dei loses all its solidity and meaning (lost as it is in the abstraction of the political).

      The noise of the 24 hour news cycle, the crutch of political commitments – all the “noise” of the modern world feeds this inversion but also (and even more importantly), is enabled in the first place by it. With patience and practice, you can recognize when a fellow parish member or neighbor is “stuck” as it were in this pattern and engage them so that the reality of the religious (Imago Dei) is brought to the fore. However, you can not do this by ignoring their legitimate moral and existential concerns that are expressed however imperfectly in their primarily political, secular thinking.

      When you do this, you will see these sorts of situations as opportunity’s. On the political level (the level of the inversion) they are intractable and lead only to division and despair. However, on another level entirely (i.e. the “religious”) they are where many many people are at because it is simply the reality of the secular soup in which we all swim. In this, I suggest that you are correct in that this kind of thinking is the rule (and in no way exceptional) in our particular time and place. However, don’t despair! Whether such people are politicizing from the left, right, or someplace else – they are struggling with real moral and existential questions. This in the end is a good thing in that they are just being human. Like I said with a little practice you will learn to (usually somewhat subversively) engage them such that their legitimate concerns are illuminated by light of the Gospel and the seemingly impossible weight of these concerns is shifted from ourselves who are crushed and carried by Him who can bear them…

  2. Christopher,
    Thank you for taking the time to explain, objectively, the “what and why’s” of my experience. Amazing, after reading about secularism, modernity, and especially it’s effect on Christianity, nevertheless when plumb in the middle of it’s very reality, it went flying over my head! Father has an article that alluded to that very point…i.e. as fish don’t know they’re in water yet surrounded by it, we as well “swim” in secularism, without thought. So that’s why I say, I would have not put my finger on it unless you pointed out the obvious. So ok, our foundation (“rests”) is no long on God, but on big government…both L and R…the R leaning on
    “morality”…morality/legalistic/ law/politics…God still in the picture…but relegated to the secular sphere. Ok…
    In the 3rd paragraph you completed the picture of what this secularization looks like with people who we know and love in the Church (this is my main concern, here, based on Father’s post on reflecting the light of Christ)…”When things are at bottom political, that means *people* are at bottom political and thus the Imago Dei loses all its solidity and meaning (lost as it is in the abstraction of the political).”
    (Still makes me cry…even now…can’t help it…)
    So then I ask…well what do we do?? And there in the remainder of your post you offer advice…patience, practice…can’t ignore their legitimate concerns…look for the opportunities subversively…(good word/point). Another good point, that my friends/loved ones “Whether.. politicizing from the left, right,…they are struggling with real moral and existential questions.”…and they were…in that we were in agreement.
    Now that I’ve basically copied and pasted your whole response…I’ve only done so because I have nothing to add…and my questions answered! I actually thank God for these experiences (from Sunday to now), looking at how He guides us along…even in unexpected ways.
    And thank you Father Lawrence for your hand in all this…and this blog…and your care for us.

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