Have you ever plunged into the sea? It is frightening to leave the certainty of the open air where everything is illuminated by the sun, and enter into the cloudy darkness under the water, a space inhabited by mysterious creatures, perhaps even dangerous ones. To stay under for any length of time you must hold your breath and your lungs seem to burst and cry out: “Let me come up for air!” And to go more than a few feet under the surface you have to tie weights to your body, otherwise the air in your lungs and the life in your breast pulls you inevitably back to the surface.
All of this is necessary to obtain a pearl. They can be found, these perfect spheres, luminous and opalescent, within ugly molluscs in the mud at the bottom of the sea.
An ancient legend recounts that pearls are born when lightning strikes the sea. Where else could these perfect spheres come from, if not from an act of the heavens? And how, otherwise, could one explain the discovery of such beauty amidst the mud? Saint Ephrem recalls this legend to speak about the Incarnation of the son of God.
Jesus is also the diver, He who left the infinitely light-filled spaces of God’s heavens to plunge into the murky sea of death. He had weights tied to his body, in order to remain under for such a long time. Who knows how his lungs were bursting, how he desired to come up for air, yet he chose to swim continuously downward, all the way to the bottom so that he could grasp the shell which contained your soul and my soul. All of our souls. He brought this treasure to the surface by diving down from on high, first in the Incarnation, all the way through the human drama; and still beyond, passing through death and hell, in order to bring everything back to the Father.
God is the precious pearl, for whose sake it is right to sell all we have. And we are as well, created in his image and likeness.