Jesus - The Light Of The World
October 04, 2009 Length: 50:38
One of the great "I Am" statements in Scripture is in John's Gospel where Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world" (John 8:12). Today Fr. Tom explores the word "light" and the significance of Christ's claim.
We will continue today on our series of meditations and reflections about the names and titles of Jesus. Today we will speak, think, meditate, reflect on Jesus as the light of the world. It is one of the “I Am” sentences that you find in St. John’s Gospel. Jesus says, in that Gospel, “Ego eimi to phos tou kosmou—I am the light of the world.”
When we were reflecting about Jesus as the judge, and we read how Jesus said, according to Scripture, “I have come not to judge the world, but to save the world,” then he said that his very presence, his words, his actions constitute the judgment.
In the beginning of St. John’s Gospel, in the third chapter, Jesus says, “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” Then he continued, “For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.”
There is a connection between judgment and light. When the light comes, according to the Scripture, according to Jesus himself, then with it comes judgment—when the light comes, the true light, the real light, not the false light that the demons can fake. According to Scripture, even the devils can present themselves as angels of light, but it is a deception. We will speak about that a bit later, but the true light, the light that Christ is, the light that God himself is, according to Scripture in the first letter of John, “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” There is nothing dark in God. God is sheer light.
In the letter to Timothy it says of God, “The King of kings and the Lord of lords who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see” (I Timothy 6:15).
This light is connected with God himself, but when that light comes into the world, then there is a judgment, because everything is seen clearly. Everything is revealed for what it actually is. We show who we are. Everything shows what it is. Every person is revealed, showing who, or what, that man, that woman, that child is. Everything is seen clearly, and that is why the coming of light is a judgment.
We see that with this imagery of light, we have all of the imagery of vision, of things becoming clear, things no longer being in darkness. Of course, in the Scripture, darkness is connected with evil, darkness is connected with ignorance, it is connected with death. The deep darkness, the pit of Sheol is in darkness, whereas God is dwelling in unapproachable light.
This imagery, by the way, of light and darkness, exists virtually in all cultures. Anyone who tried to make sense of anything, anyone who wanted to speak about anything, anyone who reflected upon life in this world, would come to those images of light and darkness, and therefore clarity of vision and blindness, therefore what is life-giving, because light is also life-giving. Where there is darkness there cannot be life. You need to have light, and just the right light, just the proper light, in the proper proportion, in the proper way, in order for there to be life. There cannot be life where there is no light.
We have this image of light and judgment in the Scripture. I think anyone who is familiar with the Bible at all knows that in the very beginning of the Holy Scripture, the first verses of the Bible itself, you have the mention of light. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void.” It was formless. In the Septuagint I even believe it means, not only void, but invisible. There was nothing there to be seen, it was in darkness. “It was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”
You always have the image of deep darkness in Scripture, which is really, really dark. It is almost as if, antithetical to where the presence of God is, you have deep darkness. “The Spirit of God”—the breath of God, God’s wind—“was moving over the face of the waters.” We have these very first words from the mouth of God in Scripture, when God says, “ ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light, and God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. He called the light day, and the darkness he called night, and there was evening, and there was morning: one day.”
We will meditate later about the connection of light with day, and with the dayspring, and with the dawn, and even the connection of light with the sun, helios, because one of the titles of Jesus, as we will see, is the Sun of Justice or the Sun of Righteousness, helios dikaiosynis, in Slavonic solntse pravdy, which is used very often liturgically in our hymns in the Orthodox Church.
This light is in the beginning. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and he said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light, and God saw that the light was good.” It is difficult to understand what the original light was. What did that mean? There are various theories about that, various explanations, and I frankly do not identify personally with any one of them, I do not know that much about it, actually, but there are certain things that can be said: That light certainly was not the light that came from the star that is the sun, in our earthly solar system, in our galaxy. According to the creation story in Genesis, the sun and the stars and moon only come on the fourth day. The moon is reflecting the light of the sun, and the stars have their own light—they are like suns. In fact, the sun, itself, is a star. It is a fire that produces light.
But it does seem to be pretty clear that in this opening sentence in the Bible, when God said, “ ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light, and God saw that it was good,” it does not seem to be sunlight. It certainly does not mean the light from the sun that we have on earth. But maybe it means the light that had to exist throughout all the galaxies and the 100,000 billions of stars and moons and everything else, in order for there to be a creation at all.
Some people think that it means a kind of a spiritual realm, like God dwelling in this unapproachable light, and then surrounding him are cherubim and seraphim and angels and archangels and all the celestial heavenly hosts and they are kind of filled with light. The angels are fires and light, so some people think that maybe that first original light was the angelic realm, the realm of the bodiless powers.
Some people, St. Augustine, I think, St. Gregory of Nyssa, though I am not totally sure on this, but certainly some, I remember from my studies, thought that maybe light was some type of primal energy from which all the other things came, or it was a kind of a spiritual created world that was the foundation for all the material world that would emerge from the light, and that would need the light in order, actually, to exist.
So there might be a kind of a theory that this light, which seems to be totally created, does not seem to be the uncreated light of God himself. It seems to be a creature. When God created heaven and earth he said, “Let there be light, and there was light, and the light was good.” He separated it from the darkness. It seems like something within the physical cosmos, within the created universe.
I met recently a young Orthodox woman, a doctoral student in physics, at a monastery in Rives Junction, the Dormition of the Theotokos (certainly one of the feasts of the Theotokos). Abbess Gabriella, and also Fr. Roman Braga, live there. I had a conversation with this woman, this young physicist, just for half an hour or so. She said to me that she was very moved by the fact that in the Scripture the first thing that is brought into being is light, because she had this understanding that light is somehow the prime creature, without which nothing else can be.
I am not a scientist or a physicist at all, but I just love to read about those things, especially Einstein and his theory of relativity. She actually gave me a paper that she wrote about Einstein and the various theories of relativity, specific relativity. She told me, and I hope I am getting this right, that light is the only constant in the universe, that weight and measurement and sound and other things act differently in what physicists, and certainly Einsteinian physicists, would call frames of reference.
For example, time is different in different places in the universe. Space is different—things are heavier, things are lighter, things are longer, things are shorter, older, and younger. There is a definite relativity of time and space in the created universe, we know this now for sure, absolutely for certain, but what is interesting, according to this learned woman, and I think I got it right, is that light acts the same way all the time everywhere. I believe it travels at 186,000 miles per second, or something like that, but wherever you find light, it is everywhere the same, and it is an essential ingredient, so to speak. It is something that you have to have. It is a foundational measurement of the cosmos, of the created order.
Maybe that is the light that is spoken about in the beginning of Genesis; I do not know, I really just do not know, so do not say that I know—I do not know. But it is amazing how this light comes right in the beginning, and what a significant, even a unique place, physical light has in the created galaxies that we Christians believe God has created in the beginning. It is very mysterious, this cosmos.
I hope to speak a little bit before this year is over about Darwin, actually, on the radio, because this is the year of the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the book, The Origin of the Species, so I would like to reflect a bit about Darwin at some point in the future, before then end of the calendar year.
In any case, science looks at these realities of the natural world and studies them and tries to understand them and to come to the truth about them, and it is so absolutely marvelous, this created world that we have—“the star differing from star in gloria,” St. Paul says, and the galaxies, and all that exists, even just on our little planet Earth with all the trees and the flowers and the birds and the animals and the fish and all that has come to be. And now we know how old, “Oh, it is billions of years old, and developed in many forms,” and so on. That seems to be undeniable, as a matter of fact, and we have to understand how all that relates to the scriptural revelation of God.
What we see about this light is that it is the foundational thing. On every great festival of our Church we read the beginning of Genesis—at Pascha, Christmas, Epiphany, Pentecost, and the first day of Great Lent: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and it was without form and void, and was in darkness, and God said, ‘Let there be light,’ ” and then this fundamental non-being in darkness is filled with the light that God creates. Our holy Fathers like to say it is a created form of what exists uncreatedly in God, the uncreated divine light that no one can comprehend or understand or explain. Nevertheless, we believe that it really exists.
There is this uncreated light of which the created light is a creaturely image, rooted in the uncreated light of God himself, which, of course, is symbolical language about God, because God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. But God is certainly not light like the light of the sun, or the light that is in the universe, or any created thing. God is totally uncreated. There is the uncreated light of God that many saints and Moses and others have actually witnessed; they have actually participated in; they have actually shone, themselves, with that very light of God, and it came across like physical light, but it was not physical.
In any case, when you read Genesis, you cannot help but think about the beginning of the Gospel according to St. John, because Genesis begins, “In the beginning God created heaven and earth.” The RSV says, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the earth, and the Spirit of God was blowing over the face of the waters”—these primal waters—“and God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light, and God said that the light was good.”
In St. John’s Gospel, it begins the same way: “In the beginning.” You have exactly the same beginning words: “In the beginning.” That is how Genesis begins, and that is how St. John’s Gospel begins: “In the beginning.” But in the New Testament, in the theological Gospel of St. John, it says, “In the beginning was the Logos”—the Devar Yahweh, the Word—“and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be that came to be.” That is what it says in Greek. In the RSV it says. “All things were made through him, or by him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
In the Nicene Creed, quoting this text, and quoting the letter to the Hebrews, that all things came to be through him, it states that God created heaven and earth, but he created everything through the Logos, through his Word, and that means through Jesus Christ.
But as we continue to read the beginning of St. John’s Gospel, we read this: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” In him was life, and the life was the light of human beings. “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” It could also be translated, has not comprehended it, not grasped it.
Right there, in the beginning of St. John’s Gospel, it says that in the Logos was life, he was the living Word of God, living with the very life of God, and the life was the light of men. So you have the connection of life and light, light and life, coming together. Certainly we are going to see that Jesus is not saying, “I am the light of the world,” but he is saying “I am the life of the world.” That he is not only to phos tou kosmou, he is ego eimi, the life, the zoe of the world, as well—the life—and the way and the truth.
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men, and the light was shining in the darkness and the darkness could not conquer it,” could not overcome it. The light always defeats the darkness. We would say that darkness, by definition, is the absence of light. Darkness is where there is no light. Darkness is somehow dependent on there being light, but it does not have a reality in and of itself. It is a kind of a non-being, a non-reality darkness.
Continuing, speaking about John the Baptist, it says, “He was not the light, but he came to bear witness to the light.” Then it says that the true light that enlightens every human person was coming into the world. This Logos is the true light that was coming into the world. Then it says, “He was in the world, the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”
The prologue continues, and then it says, this Logos who is the light that enlightens every person, the light that is coming into the world, became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, and we have seen, “we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” That term, glory, doxa in Greek, kabod in Hebrew, is the name for the splendor, the magnificent light of God himself, the light that God dwells in, and the light that God himself, somehow is.
Our holy Fathers speak about the light being so bright that you can call it darkness, “luminous darkness” they call it, or the “divine darkness which is filled with light.” It is so superabundantly light that we cannot even speak about it except by using a symbol of darkness, but that does not mean that there is any evil or death, or anything like that, in God. “God is light and in him is no darkness at all,” it says in I John.
In the Old Testament, Moses entered into that light, that luminous cloud on the mountaintop. Moses, entering the cloud, enters into that splendid light, that reality that is filled with light. It says in Exodus, I think it is the 34th chapter, when Moses is coming down from the mountain, his own skin, his face is shining with the light, and they had to put a veil over his face because people could not look at him because he was shining with this light.
In St. John’s Gospel it claims that that light is the Logos, and the Logos is incarnate, and that incarnate Logos is the Son of God, and the Son of God is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is that light. In the beginning of St. John’s Gospel, Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, is called “the light that enlightens every man who comes into the world”—every human being. John the Baptist says explicitly, “I am not the light. I came to bear witness to the light.” Here we have it: Jesus Christ, incarnate Logos, is the light of God. He is the divine light, and this divine light of God is coming into the world.
To jump ahead a bit, our Christian mystics have experienced the uncreated light of God, like Gregory Palamas and the Palamites, St. Simeon the New Theologian, and even in our time, Elder Sophrony. He knew elders on Mt. Athos who had the experience of the uncreated light. St. Seraphim of Sarov shined himself with the uncreated light. Motovilov could not look at him. The claim is—and this is Orthodox Christian dogma—that human beings can experience the uncreated light of God, and that uncreated light of God can penetrate their physical reality so that they themselves shine.
In the synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we have the event of the Transfiguration of Christ, where on the Feast of Booths, he goes up on the mount—traditionally, Mt. Tabor—and takes Peter, James, and John, and he is transfigured, and he is shining with the uncreated light. They see him, but they cannot even look at it. They have to hide their faces. Moses and Elijah, who also dwelt in that light of God, were with him.
You have this imagery of light, the real divine light that is in the world, that human beings can actually experience. They can know, they can see, and they claim it is nothing created. Nevertheless, they as creatures can participate in this very light.
The mystical saints, like Gregory Palamas, certainly St. Simeon the New Theologian, and St. Seraphim, when speaking of this light which is made possible by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, name it as Jesus. St. Simeon, for example, asks the light, “Who are you?” when the light appeared to him. The same light appeared to St. Anthony the Great, and he said it is Christ. The uncreated light of God is Christ. The uncreated light of God that mystics experience is Christ.
If there are any holy people anywhere on earth to whom God in his mercy has decided to reveal his divine light to, whether they may be Hindus, Buddhists, or whoever they might be—righteous, holy people, with pure hearts seeking God, as Jesus said, “the pure in heart will see God”—we as Christians would say perhaps they had an experience of light, too, because all of the mystics around the world bear witness to light. They use that imagery, that symbolism.
We Christians would say if anyone, anywhere, had any real experience of the uncreated light of God, then that is Jesus Christ. They may not know it, but we do. We know who it is. The light of God is Jesus Christ. He is the Word incarnate. He is the light that enlightens every man who comes into the world.
This glory that is spoken about, “We beheld his glory,” when the Word becomes incarnate—that is the word for the uncreated splendor of God that Moses and Elijah, and Isaiah in the temple, saw in the old covenant, in Ezekiel. That is the very light that the Christian saints experience and witness to. That is the light that St. Paul saw when he was stuck down on the road to Damascus when he saw that flashing, blinding light. It was God himself.
This light of God, this divine light, we Christians confess is hypostatically, personally, Jesus Christ. It is the Logos, who is incarnate as Jesus Christ. Not only does this light shine from Jesus’ face in the Transfiguration, but in St. John’s Gospel he says, “I am this light.” It not only shines from him, he is it. He is the source of light.
In the Psalter, in the Old Testament, you have these images used in the Psalms. Psalm 37:9-10 became part of the Great Doxology of the Christian Church: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.” It ends with the words, “For in thy light we shall see light. Oh, continue forth thy loving kindness unto those who know you.”
In other places in the Psalms you have the imagery of light. “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?” That psalm, 27, we use at baptisms. It is the prokeimenon at baptism, and baptism is enlightenment. It is illumination—photismos. Phos is light, photismos is illumination. Baptism is when a person becomes illumined.
In the Psalms also, for example, the 119th Psalm that is read over the tomb of Christ on Great and Holy Friday, it speaks about the lamp, “a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path,” and we see that this light and this lamp are identified with Christ, too. Sometimes John the Baptist is called the lamp—the lamp for Christ who is the light. Just as he is the voice of the Word, and the friend of the Bridegroom, so he is considered the lamp for the light. Sometimes Jesus himself is called the lamp for the light of God. In the book of Revelation, that is how those words would be used.
You have imageries of light in the Psalter. Read the psalms and you will see how much of that is there. Of course, this is also connected with illumination and being able to see and overcoming blindness, so when Jesus is healing people to show he is the Messiah, he illumines them, he opens their eyes so that the light can be there, so they can see things clearly.
In Isaiah also, the Messianic figure, the servant of Yahweh is called lumen gentium, the phos ton ethnon, the light of the nations. The gentiles will be in his light. At the end of Isaiah you have all those lines that are picked up in the Book of Revelation about the New Jerusalem: “Shining, shining, the New Jerusalem,” and there is no evening there, and it is all filled with light. The Bible ends with the New Jerusalem that comes from heaven, the bride of the Lamb. There is no temple in that city. It says, “The temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb,” meaning Jesus Christ, but it also says the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, “for the glory of God”—the kabod Yahweh, the splendor of God—“is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” The Lamb is the lamp and the splendor of God is the light.
In the Letter to the Hebrews, Jesus is called the radiance of the Father’s glory, the kabodof God, the splendorous glory of God, that apavgasma tis doxis, the splendor, the radiance of his glory, is Jesus Christ, himself. It says in Revelation 21-22, “Night shall be no more. They need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light and they shall reign forever and ever.” In the coming age the light will be the very uncreated light of God himself, and that light will be Jesus Christ.
In the eighth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, we have three times, very specifically and very clearly, Jesus calling himself the light of the world. There is the event of the woman caught in adultery. Some people think that was added later, but in any case, it is in our Bibles now. When you get to the way the Bible is printed now, when you get to the twelfth verse, this is what Jesus says (John 8:12): “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world’—’ego eimi to phos tou kosmou’—He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ ”
There you have light and life connected together again, because light is not only vision and truth and reality and clarity, and it is not only judgment when that clarity is seen for what it is, but it is life—it is life. How wonderful all that comes together. “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The Pharisees say to him, “You are bearing witness to yourself. Your testimony is not true.” Then Jesus speaks about all the witnesses to him. He has the witness of God the Father, he has the witness of the Holy Spirit, he has the witness of John the Baptist. He has the witness of the Scriptures. He has the witness of his own words, he has the witness of his own deeds. All of these are bearing testimony to Christ. So he says, “I am the light of the world,” but he already said earlier in St. John’s Gospel, that light is not accepted by people who love darkness, people who do not like the light, do not want it. They prefer darkness.
In fact, I think we could even say that is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit that cannot be forgiven. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is to see light as light, and prefer darkness; to see truth as truth, and to prefer falsehood; to see what is beautiful and glorious, and to prefer what is ugly and perverse and corrupted.
Isaiah put it that way: “Woe to those who call bitter sweet, and sweet bitter—light darkness, and darkness light.” There is no hope for them, because when the light shines and people do not want it, what can God do? What can God do? That light, according to our Orthodox Christian theology, is the torture of hell. Hell is when there are no blinds on the windows. [laughter] Hell is when that light is shining and everybody has to face it. If you love it, you become light yourself. You become all light yourself, the way the saints became light—St. Gregory Palamas, St. Simeon, St. Seraphim—how many saints there are, beginning in the Old Testament with Moses. They are filled with light.
There is a story about St. Innocent, in Alaska. I may have said this on the radio before, but it is a great story. He was talking to one of the Siberian or Alaskan priests one day, and the priest was saying to him, as he was a bishop already, “Your Grace, Bishop, I do not understand this hell business. I do not understand how God can punish people. I do not understand the torment and all that kind of stuff; it just does not make sense, and it is a scandal to people.” It was, by the way, a scandal to Charles Darwin, we will talk about that some time.
In any case, when they were having this conversation, it was in the middle of an ice-covered field, like a glacier, where everything was bright, sparkling white, and the sun was shining. St. Innocent said to this priest, “Before I answer you, Father, why are you squinting? Why are you covering your eyes? What is the matter with you?”
“Your Grace,” he said, “I am sitting by the window here and the light is shining on the snow and the ice, and it is sparkling, and it is shining into my eyes.”
St. Innocent asked, “Why don’t you pull the shade down over the window?”
The priest said, “Oh, forgive me, Your Grace, but I do not have a shade. There is no way that I can block out that light.”
“St. Innocent said, “There is your answer, Father. That is hell.”
Hell is when the light is shining, and you do not love it, and you do not want to become all light yourself, and you resist that light, and it tortures you. It torments you.
We should remember that when Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, he also said in the Sermon on the Mountain, in St. Matthew’s Gospel, “You are the light of the world.” He said to his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. So let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your father, God, who is in heaven.”
That line, by the way, is used in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy when the bishop serves. At the beginning of the Liturgy when the bishop is in the middle of the church, and he is all vested, and he is standing there, and they bring him his candles, the trikirion and the dikirion, that stand for the Trinity, and Jesus Christ as God and man. He raises up those candles and gives the first blessing with the deacon censing him, saying, “So may your light shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who dwells in heaven.”
We Christians are supposed to be the light of the world. If we are baptized, we are illumined. We are like the Samaritan woman, we are called “Photini.” We are illumined people. We should be shining people. We should be walking around shining like Christ himself is shining with the shining light of God. That is what is supposed to happen if we are baptized and chrismated and have Holy Communion. We should be shining with the uncreated light, ourselves, and people should see us and give glory to God, that they would know that that light came from God, and not from us.
But we would say to those people, “If there is any light at all among human beings, that light is the light that God is, and Christ is that light. The Word of God is that light that enlightens every human being.” If a human being is enlightened, that person is enlightened by Christ, who is the light.
He says in the eighth chapter, “I am the light of the world.” He says it again in the ninth chapter. This is what it says: Jesus meets a man blind from birth. He is in darkness. He cannot see anything. His whole life is nothing but darkness, this poor man. Jesus is asked, “Who sinned? Did the man sin? Did the parents sin?” Jesus said that it was part of divine providence, that the work of God would be manifested in him. Then Jesus said, “I must work the works of him who sent me while it is day. Night comes, when no one can work.” Then he said, “As long as I am in the world”—ego eimi to phos tou kosmou—“I am the light of the world.”
So he comes to the blind young man and heals him as the light of the world. He gives him the light. He opens up his eyes, so that he may see. At the end of that beautiful event, when that boy is healed—and it is a long story, it is the whole ninth chapter.—Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” That light comes into the world that illumines those who wish to see, but it judges those who prefer darkness.
Some of the Pharisees near him heard that he said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” They asked Jesus, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”
In other words, if you did not see what was going on, you would not be considered guilty, there would be no culpability. But since you see what is going on and you say, “We see you. We see you, Jesus. We see what you are doing. We see how you opened that blind boy’s eyes, which never happened since the foundation of the world,” as it says in Scripture. But Jesus said, “If you say we see, and you do not accept this, you do not love this, you do not enter into the illumination, yourselves, and become enlightened, then your guilt remains.” Your guilt remains.
There is a third time in St. John’s Gospel that Jesus speaks about himself as the light, and the light of the world. It is in the twelfth chapter. In the 35th verse of the 12th chapter of St. John’s Gospel, this is what is written (John 12:35): Jesus is having a conversation with the people. The introduction is important, but we will not read it now, we will just get to this point, where Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you. He who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons”—or children—“of light.”
Isn’t that amazing? Jesus said, “The light is with you a little longer.” He was talking about himself, because he was going to be crucified. “Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you.” When he was crucified, the light of the sun was hidden, and as the Prophet Amos said, “There was darkness at noon,” and everything was plunged into darkness on that day, according to the imagery of the scripture. The Scripture reading from Amos about the darkness at noon: “The sun will go down at noon,” is read on Great and Holy Friday, at the hours. When Christ was crucified, we know, according to the Gospels, that there was a kind of eclipse of the sun. When Jesus was buried, it is said that the sun of righteousness was eclipsed. We will speak about that another time.
“Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you. He who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” We are supposed to be sons of light. He continues: “The one who believes in me, believes not in me, but in him who sent me”—in God—“and he who sees me sees him who sent me”—God the Father. And then he says again, “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him, for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”
We heard this text when we spoke about Jesus as the judge who will come at the end to judge the living and the dead, but he judges the living and the dead as God’s light, where he reveals everything and then we make our own judgment. This light comes and we show what we are, and God pronounces and puts a seal on what we are, and the question is: Are we sons and children of the light, or are we children of darkness? We have the prayers in Church, taken from the Scriptures, that say that we would be made children of the light, sons of the light. We want to be light, and not darkness, and the light is stronger than the darkness.
Jesus said, “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him, for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” Three times in St. John’s gospel we have Jesus saying,
I AM the light of the world,” or “I have come as a light to the world,” or that the Logos incarnate is the light that illumines every man who will be illumined, and he is the one who is coming into the world.
St. Paul bears witness to this in his letters, he certainly does. His imagery is different from St. John. We know that; anyone who reads the Scripture knows that. However, we should remember, for example, in the second letter to the Corinthians, the third and fourth chapters, he says that the same way that Moses had to cover his face because the splendor of God was upon him; if Moses did that in the old covenant, what greater splendor is there, in the dispensation, not of condemnation and judgment, but of righteousness and salvation? It far exceeds the old in splendor.
In the letter to the Hebrews it was written that the new covenant is way beyond that of the old covenant, as the owner of the house is beyond the slave who just works in it. You have the term “splendor,” “radiance,” “apovgasma.” “Indeed, in this case, what once had splendor has come to have no splendor at all’—he means the old covenant—“because of the splendor that surpasses it. For if what faded away came with splendor, what is permanent must have much more splendor.” He is speaking about the coming of Christ.
Then he speaks about a veil hanging over people’s faces, and he says that Christians are very bold, not like Moses, who had to veil his face, at the fading splendor. He says about Jesus Christ, that in him, we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another, “with unveiled faces,” and that we behold the glory, the kabod, of God.
This is how he uses the imagery of light. This is what he says about the people who do not know God, and those in the old covenant, over whom a veil is still hanging, so they do not know how to confess Jesus as the Christ: “In their case, the God of this world”—which means the devil, Satan—“has blinded their minds”—the unbelievers—“to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God.”
This glory of the Gospel of Christ, he says (II Corinthians 4:6), “is shining from the face of Christ (apo tou prosopou tou Kyriou) who is the icon of God (hos estin eikon tou Theou).” Then he says, “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face”—prosopon, or person—“of Christ.”
I will read it again: “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts”—see how many things are here—“to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus.” And that light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ is the likeness of God.
St. Paul is saying that the light of God, the uncreated light, the light of the Gospel, which is Christ, is now shining from his person, shining from his face. There is a beautiful passage in the letter to the Ephesians that uses exactly that same way of speaking. This is what it says in the letter to the Ephesians. The author is saying, be imitators of God, walk in love, as Christ loved—no fornication, no impurity, no covetousness, which is idolatry, no filthiness, no silly talk, no levity. Instead let there be evcharistia— thanksgiving, gratitude.”
Then he said, “Be sure of this. No fornicator, or impure person, or one who is covetous, that is, an idolator, can have any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ, and of God.” Then he said to the Christians, “Do not associate with such people, for once you were darkness”—these gentiles, he is saying, were darkness, once they were in darkness—“but now you are light in the Lord.”
Then he says to them, “Walk as children of light, for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true, and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Then he said it is a shame even to speak about what these people do in darkness. He said, “But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible. For anything that becomes visible is light.”
As the psalm says in the doxology, “In your light we shall see light.” So we see the light, and by the light, we see everything else clearly, and therefore that is the judgment upon us. We have come to know the truth. When we discuss Jesus as the truth, we will see that the Greek word for truth, “aletheia,” means to unveil. It means to uncover. It means to see things clearly, to take it out of darkness. That is what the word truth means. We will talk about that later.
I will read it again. “When anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible. For anything that becomes visible islight. Therefore it is said, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.’ ” And the light that he gives us is the light that he is.
He is the light. He is the very light of the whole world. He is the uncreated light of God himself, who enters into this world, and in his humanity, in his flesh, in his face, his person, he shines forth this uncreated light of God himself, because he is that light. And we are to remember that we are supposed to be in that light ourselves. We are supposed to be the light of the world.
In the first letter of John, St. John again uses that imagery of light. This is what he said: “I am writing to you a new commandment, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light”—which is Christ, the true light that enlightens every person who comes into the world—“is already shining.”
Then St. John writes, “He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still. He who loves his brother abides in the light.” So now we have light being connected with love, not only with life and with truth, but with love. “He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in that light there is no cause for stumbling. But he who hates his brother is in darkness, and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
We Christians are supposed to be light. We are supposed to be the light of the world. We are supposed to be light-bearers. We are supposed to be illumined people. We are supposed to have that very light that Christ himself is—the light that he gives to us—because he enlightens every man who comes into the world. He wants to enlighten us. We were baptized to be illumined.
We know that those who really keep God’s commandments, who really love God and give themselves to him completely and totally, without reservation, they themselves became light. As I mentioned, Motovilov could not even look at St. Seraphim in their conversation. It was said that people could not look at St. Anthony the Great. Nevertheless, they were drawn to look. You did not want to look, but you looked, because that is what you always have when the splendor and the glory of God is there.
You have this light that is attracting you and at the same time it is judging you, and when you are in that light, you know that you are a creature. You know that you are a sinner. Nevertheless, that light is just so beautiful and splendorous and glorious and God, that anyone who wants it in the least way, God gives it to them. So, then, that light is given to us.
What we know today, what we are affirming today, is that all that light, in its divine, uncreated form, is Jesus Christ himself. He is personally that light, and he comes into the world, and, being in the world, he is the light of the world. And if anyone, anywhere, in any way, is illumined, in any possible manner or form, Christ is that divine light—the light of truth, the light of life, the light of love, that illumines that person.
That same light that shines from the face of Christ who is the light, should shine from all of us, as well. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world,” but he also says to us, “You are the light of the world. Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works, and give glory to the Father who is in heaven.” That light that is given to us is Jesus Christ himself, the incarnate Logos, who said, “I am the light of the world.”
"As the parish priest for a mission in New Zealand, I have found AFR to be a very valuable resource for teaching both in the parish and to the wider non-Orthodox community. Indeed, it is probably my most valuable resource at present."