I recall quiet nights in prayer when there was no light in my bedroom but a small tea light candle in a red glass votive cup. It was simple and disarming. My prayer was nothing more than watching the flicker of the flame and feeling God’s presence in the room. There was something about the flame that revealed God to me. A flame has a life of its own, flickering and moving on its own, even without an apparent breeze. The orange-red flame goes wild while at other moments sits calmly and still. It was alive like me, like the Spirit, and providing warmth and light as if by magic. But the force behind it was God.
This is the simple magic we see in a sunset or an ant crawling across the floor. They are the simple things of beauty that are outside our control yet they have an amazing life of their own. I’ll never forget an evening of Taize prayer I attended where the taper candle I was holding in my fist started moving on a rhythm. It was my pulse – the blood coursing through my arteries and veins that was causing the taper to move—pulse by pulse. I remember staring at it, knowing that it was not me consciously moving it but the blood that God was causing to rhythmically pulse through my hand.
So now, the simple act of lighting a candle becomes a prayer for me, initiating that flame which I’ve come to see so close to God’s essence of providing me light and comfort. And I suppose that magic, as I call it, is that life force beyond me, God sustaining and causing, creating beauty through a flickering flame and the pulse of my blood. These things can be explained through physics and biology but there is something there still hidden, which is why I can see God there.
I love C.S. Lewis’ use of the word magic in his book, Letters to Malcom: Chiefly on Prayer:
I should define magic in this sense as “objective efficacy which cannot be further analysed.”
Magic, in this sense, will always win a response from a normal imagination because it is in principle so “true to nature.” Mix these two powders and there will be an explosion. Eat a grain of this and you will die. Admittedly, the “magical” element in such truths can be got rid of by explanation; that is by seeing them to be instances or consequences of larger truths. Which larger truths remain “magical” till they also are, in the same way, explained. …
Now the value, for me, of the magical element of Christianity is this. It is a permanent witness that the heavenly realm, certainly no less than the natural universe and perhaps very much more, is a realm of objective facts… One cannot conceive a more completely “given,” or, if you like, a more “magical,” fact than the existence of god as causa sui.
Deep stuff. In essence, the “magic” of the universe, of the flame, the pulse, the sunset, and the ant are all witnesses to the existence of God. And the moment you explain them you find something else inexplicable (magical).
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Music by Kevin MacLeod