Dear Sisters and Brothers,
"Let your light so shine"
Light is a major theme in Holy Orthodoxy as it is in all the great religions of the world. It is a sign of God's presence, of human holiness, of warmth, goodness, love, safety, and truth. In Orthodox spirituality light becomes the evidence that a man or woman has become one with God. The saint who knows and loves God with all her "heart, soul, mind and strength" partakes in the Divine Nature which infuses the whole person like fire does charcoal when one can no longer easily distinguish one from the other. The union is the highest calling of humanity, our vocation as persons made "in the image and likeness of God" with the potential of not only tasting and seeing God, but of "becoming God by grace."
The Feasts of Christmas, Epiphany, and the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple are a trinity of Light festivals. The Light is born, the Light is revealed, the Light for whom the Temple was built enters its precincts in the sacred temple of his human flesh. All for us and for our salvation. All to renew "the image that fell of old".
Some Christians like to focus on how dark the world is seeing in everything the devil at work. But how can this be when the Light that cannot be overcome by darkness (St. John's Gospel, chapter one) has come and when we proclaim at Holy Pascha the victory of life over death? We find what we are looking for, don't we? If our hearts are dark that is what we will see, if our hearts are filled with light that is what we will see. The more we focus on darkness the stronger it becomes, the more we awaken to the preeminence and omnipresence of Light, the more it will become apparent that the Holy Spirit, "the Lord and giver of Life" is He that "dwells in all places and fills all things".
The triumph of Christ over darkness does not mean that the people around us making up society will necessarily follow that light nor that life will always be easy for us. Discipleship cannot be forced or demanded of the unwilling. Coercion is not God's way though some may wish it were. His way is to shine through us in all situations whether it is easy or not, whether Christianity reigns supreme or not, whether society heeds the Gospel or not. The Church harbors many martyrs. Our lives are the supreme test of whether we love Christ or not. All of this rests in the folds of the grand and bold Divine experiment of gifting all human beings with freedom to choose which path to take.
"Let your light so shine that they might see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." In season and out, in good and bad times, may the Light of Christ illumine us and the "good works" of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and compassion be a light to all we encounter. Our mission is to make sure that the light in us is stronger than the darkness.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Antony Hughes