Keep the Faith: The light of Christ illumines all – Worcester Telegram


In the story of creation, we learn that the darkness was over the face of the deep and the Spirit of God was moving over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light; and there was light”. The darkness was great, but a simple command from God for there to be light, illumined the world. This created light gave life to the world. 
This is the first reference of the light in the entire Bible. Fast forward to the Gospel of John in the New Testament and once again, we hear about the Light, however, this time, it is uncreated and refers to a Person:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him” (John 1:1-10).
The Creator of light came into the world to restore the light and overcome the darkness of sin. This darkness is different than the darkness we read about in the opening verses of Genesis. For the Evil One is the author of this darkness. This darkness can lead one to eternal condemnation, which in essence, is the absence of the eternal Light of Christ Who illumines every soul that desires Him. 
How can we talk about the absence of the Light when we read that, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”? To fully comprehend this, we must first distinguish between the physical light and the spiritual light that brings about unity with Christ, the true Light. A darkened room can be transformed into light by flipping a switch – this is physical light. This created light can be extinguished by, once again, flipping the same switch into the off position. The spiritual light on the other hand, illumines the person with the uncreated light of Christ, expelling the darkness within him, transforming him into the light. 
St. Symeon the New Theologian (949 AD), who had encountered, both the physical and spiritual light, through visions of Christ, and taught that people can have direct experience of God, beautifully describes the spiritual light in discourse 28 by saying: 
“The Light of Christ shines on us without evening, without change, without alteration, without form. It speaks, works, lives, gives life, and changes into light those whom it illuminates. We bear witness that “God is light,” and those to whom it has been granted to see Him, have all beheld Him as light. Those who have seen Him have received Him as light, because the light of His glory goes before Him, and it is impossible for Him to appear without light. Those who have not seen His light have not seen Him, for He is the light, and those who have not received the light have not yet received grace. Those who have received grace have received the light of God and have received God, even as Christ Himself, who is the Light, has said, “I will live in them and move among them” (2 Cor. 6:16).
Therefore, we can confess that the light of Christ is given only to those who seek Him through a constant effort of self-emptying and purification. This is how we become the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).
Let’s take a look at one of St. Symeon’s visions of this Light:
“As he stood praying the Trisagion (Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us), he was suddenly overwhelmed by the presence of God, which lifted him outside of himself. The light took away from him “all material denseness and bodily heaviness that made my members to be sluggish and numb.” 
In this ecstasy he received great spiritual joy and sweetness, which brought a newfound sense of freedom and transcendence and an understanding of the manner in which one enters into eternal life through physical death. But in one particular vision Symeon seemed to have reached a breakthrough to a new consciousness of Jesus Christ, ever dwelling within him as a light, a “formless form” that never left Symeon: “… and then I knew that I had Thee consciously within me. From then onwards, I loved Thee, not by recollection of Thee and that which surrounds Thee, nor for the memory of such things, but I in very truth believed that I had Thee, substantial love, within me.”
For Christians, we also behold the light of Christ through the sacraments of the church. Take for example the Eucharist. Christ offers Himself as a sacrifice for all people. Those who choose to accept Him and partake of His Body and Blood worthily, experience His eternal light and joyfully sing, “We have seen the True Light! We have received the Heavenly Spirit! We have found the True Faith! Worshiping the Undivided Trinity, Who has saved us” (The Divine Liturgy).
We are called to be the light of the world just as Christ is the Light of the world; abiding in Him as He abides in us. The darkness of this world is great, but remember, we are called to be in the world, but not of the world. The rejection of the Light of Christ in this world is the cause of today’s spiritual darkness and chaos. The good news is, the history of our church is filled with moments of darkness and persecutions. But in those dark memories, the light of Christ continued to shine on those who accepted it, and ultimately triumphed over darkness. 
I will conclude with the teaching of a great modern theologian and the author of many books, Fr. Alexander Schmemann.
“The whole world strives for unity, peace, love. But are these to be found in economics? In the arms race? In competition? It is becoming increasingly obvious that there is an ever-deepening desire for something that will truly go to the very heart of humanity, as the all-illuminating light of life. Yet the “very heart” is no other than Christ himself. And there is no other path to this heart except the path He gave in the commandment of love: “Love one another, even as I have loved you …” (Jn 13:34). And there is no other wisdom and no other goal except the Kingdom of God He proclaimed. The light of Christmas is precisely this cosmic light and love. With spiritual hearing we can still hear the very same triumphant praise of two-thousand years ago: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will among men” (Lk 2:14). With spiritual eyesight we can see the same light of wisdom, and with spiritual voices we can respond to this joyful proclamation with the same song of thanksgiving: “Christ is born; glorify him! Christ comes from heaven; go to meet him! Christ is on earth; be uplifted!”
Therefore, my beloved readers, let us seek this true Light Who desires the illumination of our darkness in all its forms. Let us turn to Him with a broken and contrite heart knowing that He desires our true repentance and salvation.   
The Very Rev. Fr. Milad Selim is an Archpriest  in the Antiochian Orthodox Church and the Dean of St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Worcester.

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