Most of us have grown quite used to the phenomenon of night and day. Probably we advert to it only twice a year: the spring, when we “spring forward” by setting our clocks ahead by one hour (the Neanderthals among us, who still use such time-pieces), and the fall, when we “fall back” one hour, and regain what we had earlier lost. Only on these occasions do we more or less consciously advert to time differentials, with the sudden realization that the morning light situation has changed.
Apart from that, we have little occasion to remark about the night, or the day, perhaps because either is too close to us to establish enough distance from it to enable us to gaze at each of them and reflect on them, even though they engulf us and hold us in their embrace. That is unfortunate, because God’s very first creative action was to carefully establish demarcation lines between darkness and light, as the first book of the bible (Genesis) notes (1.1-4).
And, as a matter of fact, taking the difference between night and day too lightly is a real misfortune for us, because it downplays an invaluable asset that benefits us immensely. To illustrate this, what if there was no nighttime but only and always daytime. Or, vice versa, what if we had to abide by constant nighttime, without any trace of daytime. Or, in another scenario, how would we handle nothing but a soupy fog-like atmosphere surrounding us every instant of our lives?
Would we ever even think of asking: what time is it? Would we even think of having a timepiece as a measurement, e.g., a wristwatch? For, having no sense of the passage of time, why would we think of measuring it? Perhaps even the very word “time” would seem a useless appendage to us. God must have been aware of all these potential situations when He created a day and a night, and then a Brother Sun and Sister Moon to account for them, by placing them in the heavens (Gn 1.14, ff.) For they amount to measuring mechanisms that establish boundary lines, the crossing of which gives us a sense that we’re in motion, and moving from one point to another.
It is interesting to note that in the Book of Genesis, one of the creation accounts portrays God deciding that, of all the possible things He might want to create first, night and day would be His choice, before land and water, before vegetation of any type, before creatures in the waters or on the land, and, most strikingly, before any of us humans. As just noted, of course, the day would need a sun, and the night to follow would benefit by a light of its own, such as the moon.
What a wonderful boon it is for us that we have a night and day. These are the foundations for noticing that something such as time (as opposed to duration) exists, because one can measure the orderly transitions from day to night, back to day again. And we can begin to measure one against the other in their more or less orderly sequencing, and so we can begin to calculate how many days have occurred, and the corresponding nights. And, with that, measurement takes over our life, not as a burden or a liability, but as an asset and an advantage.
So that is one of the reasons why we defer to God as all-wise. But one simple, creative act called light and darkness, or day and night, allows everything else to fall into place. God hasn’t been kept busy trying to think up new things to create. He simply started a process that then proceeded on its own power. Then we came along and became God’s little helpers by inventing the electric light, to subdue the night and prolong the day.
So all God had to do was create night and day. That was really quite enough. In view of this we should really give God His due. We recognize His genius in doing so much on the basis of so little. God’s greatness shines forth in His very first creative act, apparently insignificant, but latent with so much potential and richness that it resembles the small snowball that begins to roll down a snowy slope, growing ever larger along the way until it reaches immense dimensions, for God is also aptly appreciated as immense. This is why God “grows on us”.
So we praise God. He is not a hands-on manipulator controlling every iota of things, but He is the “big idea” person who can do one thing right (light and darkness), enabling everything else to falls into place. Is that not why we honor Him?
We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.