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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Christ the True Light

The Meeting of Our Lord (Candlemass - 2 February)

Luke 2
29 “ Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; 30 for my eyes have seen Your salvation 31 which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, 32 a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

The Feast of the Meeting of the Lord is technically a feast of the Mother of God in the Orthodox Church corresponding to the day on which St. Mary, according to Jewish law, attended a ceremony of purification 40 days after giving birth, making our celebration of course on 2nd February. It was then normal for the child to be presented to God in the Temple, which here happened to our Lord. The blessed Simeon and prophetess Anna rejoiced to see the long awaited Messiah whom they immediately recognised in the Christ Child. It is in the song of praise of St. Simeon that we hear that Christ is a light to the Gentiles and the glory of God’s people, Israel. It is on this feast, therefore, that we bless candles, a tradition common to both the Christ east and the Christian west, signifying that Christ is the Light of the World and that his followers are called to receive and reflect this Light in their own lives.

I have assembled 12 key texts from the Scriptures to show just how important the belief in God as light is in the Holy Scriptures:-

Genesis 1:3
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

Psalm 27:1
The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 36:9
For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.

Isaiah 9:2
The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.

Isaiah 60:1
Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.

Matthew 4:16
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.”

Matthew 17:1
Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.

John 1:4
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it ….9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

John 8:12
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

2 Corinthians 4:6
For it is the God who commanded light to 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 of Jesus Christ.

1 John 1:5
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

Revelation 21:23
The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.

It is fitting therefore that we bless our candles this night for in lighting them we affirm our faith in God as OUR Light and that by His Light we shall be guided, illumined, transfigured.

A consideration of the properties of natural light may help us to appreciate why the Uncreated, who is God, chose to reveal Himself in a way analogous to the properties of created light. In making this comparison though we would do well to remember that it is only an approximation we are dealing with as the Uncreated Light of the Trinity is entirely different to any created light although, after St. Gregory Palamas, we insist on the visibility of both.

Created light has a speed no one may exceed. So spoke Einstein and this law has been proved exhaustively countless times since his day. In like manner God may not in any way be exceeded. His Light, being Himself in his energies is far more glorious and excellent than any created light.

Created light comes in little packets of energy or quanta. These have the extraordinary property of being both waves, that is electromagnetic radiation, and particles or photons. Moreover, being pure energy these quantum packets are without mass. In like manner God is both One and Trinity. The Fathers sometimes described God analogously in terms of the sun together with its heat and light. Science tells us that in the physical world tells us that things can be more than one things at once … so why do Unitarians have so many problems with the Trinity and other heresies with person of Christ? Be that as it may even the mass-less quality of the photon can instruct us. God is without heaviness; simple in Himself and all pervading … just like light. So, the Uncreated has certain affinities in essence and character with the created, in this case with the glorious light!

If this were the whole story of God as Light we might marvel but there would be no implication for our own being. As it is our faith takes us much further and deeper than this. Whether it is in the famous conversation between Nicholas Motovilov and St. Seraphim of Sarov when the saint shone like us the sun amidst the falling snow or in the famous encounter between the two desert fathers, Abba Joseph and Abba Lot, when we read that believers may also become “all flame,” in God, it becomes clear that we are called to shine with the Light of Christ, a lamp that must be placed on the stand and not be hidden.

So at this feast of Candlemass when we receive Christ the True Light let us take care to cleanse the lamp of our souls and bodies that they might become transparent to the burning Light of Christ within, for in this we shall be saved when we become, All-Light.


Ugljesa said...

Dear fr. Gregory,

I just stumbled upon this blog looking for something else (cyberworld seems to work only that way :-))

Being Orthodox christian from Serbia, I'm very pleased to see a priest that blogs.. Being an iconographer, I especcialy enjoyed and benefited from this post! Didnt really spent much time reading further, amazed by the fact that there are so much (astro)physics in your writing, thing I like to "waste time" with (amateur astronomy). Had to put this comment first! Expect more to come, I allready like this place so much..

sorry for my english, dont know if put something wrong way, and father Bless,


Father Gregory said...

Dear Ugljesa

Thank you for your encouragement! Studying God's creation is honouring Him. It is certainly not a waste of your time. I came to believe in God as a boy through astronomy. Now I believe in Christ the true Star Maker, (nodding in the direction of the author Olaf Stapledon!)

Father Gregory said...

Dear David

I published your comment but I can't see it yet. Anyway, the universe is truly hostile to our form of life in 99.99% of its locations .... but maybe in habitat terms we are only 0.01% of the life forms around - whilst in places more accommodating to their needs but not ours, life also flourishes.

Father Gregory said...

Whoops ... posted this on the wrong article!

Anonymous said...

Dear Father Gregory - I only recently began attending Orthodox church services a short three months ago and think I may have found the home I've been homesick for. I'm reading everything I can get my hands on to learn about the ancient church. But nothing helps my growth more than the spirit filled readings I've found in your blog site. I attend the Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland under the parsonage of Father Gregory Matthewes-Green. And so from all us brethren on this side of the pond, I want to thank you for this enlightening site. I WILL share it with my friends. In Christ Jesus

Father Gregory said...

Thank you for your encouragement John.

dissenter said...

Dear Fr Gregory,

I am a deacon in a Calvinistical baptist church in Scotland and have been struggling with the whole penal substitution issue (amongst others) for some years now. I have been "taking a break" from my duties as a deacon for more than a year because I feel unable to officiate at the communion table. Another fellow deacon and good friend has also recently decided that he can no longer act in a position of leadership because of a number of theological conundrums.

I just came across an article on Incarnational Atonement and to say that it has made a deep impression on me would be an understatement. It seems to answer many of the concerns that we have and makes much more sense than penal substitution.

You may be wondering why I am in a Calvinistical Baptist church when I have difficulties with their theology. Well to be honest it just sort of crept up on me. I had a conversion experience in 1989 at the age of 42 in which I recognised Jesus as the incarnate God. I had, and still have, a deep spiritual conviction that He is the One and that I must follow His way (I am trying but not succeeding most of the time). I was led to the church I am in by chance and found the people friendly and welcoming and genuinely warmhearted. I knew nothing about theology when I joined the church and, although I was asked to affirm some basic convictions before I could be baptised, I would not have recognised Calvinism if the doctrines had jumped up and hit me.

Now 17 years later I find myself in this dreadful fix. I have all sorts of problems with the doctrine of eternal punishment, the doctrine of original sin, theodicy etc. etc. but find no answers in reformed theology.

I would like to open a dialogue with you on some of thes issues if this is an appropriate forum to do so.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this, I know you time is valuable and I hope I have not wasted it.

Bob Randall

Father Gregory said...

Dear Rob

I would be delighted to open up a theological exchange with you.

Dissenter said...

Dear Fr Gregory,

I am not much of a scholar so I hope you will forgive me for a simplistic question.

Why was Lucifer able to sin if he was in “heaven” with God who “cannot look upon sin”? Does this imply that angels have free will and if they have how can God be seen as omnipotent yet not be the author of evil?

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