His Burthen is Light

My training is in Classics. That kind of nearly obsessive focus on grammar bears some peculiar fruit in my day to day life. For one, I find it immensely difficult to sit down with a book and read it. Every sentence, no matter how prosaic, fascinates me.

Without meaning to, I find myself immediately engrossed in one problem after another — why did he choose to say it that way? Is that construction accurate? Unwieldy? — so I become engrossed in every problem, that is, but the problem that the author means to address and would have me consider.

The same holds sadly true when I read the Scriptures.

But singing Handel’s Messiah only exacerbates the problem, as small phrases and phraselets pass through my lips and my mind over and over again. Last night at rehearsal, after the fifth iteration of, “His burthen is light,” the part of my brain that puts things in historical and linguistic context shut down (completely) and the part of my brain that, in another life, would have made a fine 9/11 Truther of me kicked into high gear, and suddenly I started connecting things that never should have been connected, and that really couldn’t be connected. But it was beautiful. It was so, so very beautiful.

“His burthen,” I thought to myself, “is light.” I smiled. I grinned. I laughed. I had finally lost it.

But whosoever loses his mind for His sake shall gain it.

I had discovered that the Scriptures made a sense beyond sense. His burthen is light.

That is to say, His light is our burthen. For God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. And those who were wicked wished to hide from Him, for their deeds were darkness, but this is the true light that illumines every man coming into the world. His burthen, or rather, our burthen from Him, is His light. We pretend to have proved our Saviour’s words, in their intended sense, false, and often complain about the weight of our crosses. More often than not, however, it is no suffering that weighs upon us, no innocent pain borne innocently. The weight of our cross is the malice of our sins, tangled up in a web of emotion, psychological disorder, and a mess of pride. Or, at least, mine is.

It is the Light of God that is our heaviest burden, the burgeoning realization that our favorite dark corners will not always be there for us to hide in, that our deepest and most carefully guarded secrets will come out in the end and, in the meantime, that at any moment of any day, each of us may be exposed as a fraud. But the fear is compounded, for more often than not, we are not conscious selves defrauding others. We are sleepwalking selves deceiving ourselves, just barely awaking to our condition, aware that the entire dream is about to end, and the harsh reality of Monday morning will stand starkly before our eyes, a reality which we can no more escape than we can ignore.

Light is our Cross, or more, it is our Purgatory. For we will be purified by the flames of that Light before we cross over into the Light that brings us joy.

Too often we overreact against the Protestant opinion and find ourselves Pelagians, equally erroneous. We don’t save ourselves. The Calvinist, though overblown, is on the money. If we look back on our lives, we will surely find ourselves seeing, at some point, a wretched, miserable, weak, wimpy, spineless, gutless turd admiring his reflection in a toilet bowl, grabbed by the Almighty Hand and dragged heavenwards by the wrist. Unlike the Calvinist, however, we know that we can put up enough of a fight to stay in the bathroom if we want to.

Trusting in Christ is not trusting that Christ will save you (full stop). It is, rather, trusting that Christ will save you, if you let Him, and it is also the very act (or the very acts) of letting Him.

In Heaven our pride will at length pass away,
The Light will expose what we freely admit,
And the burthen, at last, of Light will be light,
The Light from the face of Our Lord, Jesus Christ,
The Savior who saves our selves from ourselves,
Giving us cause after cause without end
To praise Him alone, who alone is our Friend.

And he is meek and humble of heart,
And his yoke is easy, and burden light,
For those as meek and humble as He.

Sean Connolly

Sean Connolly

Sean is a teacher of History, Latin, and Choir at the high school level and parish music director. He keeps his domestic church in ordered disarray with an equally beleaguered and altogether lovely lady and his little daughter.

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