“The Coming of the Great Light”
Homily for the Sunday after the Theophany
By Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
The Sunday after Theophany
Hundreds of years before the Savior was born, the prophet Isaiah, living in a dark time of tyranny and cruelty, foretold the coming of a great light:
The people who sat in the darkness have seen a great light, And for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, Light has dawned (Is. 9:2).
1. The great light: the light of knowledge
The “great light” foretold by Isaiah centuries before was none other than our Lord Jesus. He came as light into the dark world.
That is the meaning of the Jesus’ sayings: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jon 8:12), and later: “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46)
Whoever “believes in me” and “follows me”, says Jesus, does not “remain in darkness”, but “already has the light of life”. What is this light? The light is the symbol of the truth. That is why we sing at Christmas: “Your nativity, O Christ our God, has shed the light of knowledge upon the world”. Darkness is the symbol of the ignorance and of the sin. In the darkness of ignorance and sin, in which men were living, God sent His Only-Begotten Son to enlighten all human beings. St. Paul says: “God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6). What are the content of this knowledge?
- In Christ we know who God is; for he is the only Son and Word of God, that means, the only true image of God. This is light for us.
- In Christ we know who we are; the Word of God penetrates the depth of our hearts, illuminates the secrets of our thoughts, and lets us know who we really are. In this light of Christ, we cannot any more deceive ourselves; in this light of Christ we know that we are sinners, who need salvation. Listen what the Letter to the Hebrews says: “Indeed the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” (4:12-13)
- In the light of Christ we know the way of life for which man was created, as Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth and the life.”
- In the light of Christ we know the answer to the riddle of death. Jesus lived and died as a human being. But after his death he was risen from the dead. From his tomb has arisen the light of the Resurrection for him and for us.
Why are they so many problems in the world? Way are there inside us fears, distresses, insecurity? Why are there between peoples wars, enmities, hatred? We find the answer in the following sentence of the Gospel of St. John: “This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (3:19-21)
2. Our answer to the light: three candles, candles of faith, of hope and of love
In the life of Jesus three lights were manifested: 1) the light of Nativity symbolized by the star that lead the Magi from the East to worship the Savior, it is the light of faith: we believe that Jesus is the Son of God; 2) the light of the Resurrection, which is the light of hope in eternal life; 3) the light of Pentecost, which is the light of Love; for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Love.
The story of our Christian life is the story of our illumination by Jesus. Jesus comes as “a great light” to those who languish in the darkness of ignorance, despair, and hatred. 1) To those who sit in the darkness of ignorance, He lights the candle of knowledge; 2) to those who sit in the darkness of despair, He lights the candle of hope; 3) to those who sit in the darkness of hatred, He lights the candle of love. And with these three theological virtues he lights candles of joy, forgiveness, peace, and meaning in the lives of people today.
When we enter the church we light a candle. The processions of the Gospel and of the offerings are accompanied by candles. This is to remind us that we have received light form Christ and that, like Him, we too, ought to be lighting candles in the lives of people. We have the mission to spread the light of Christ in the world. He said of himself: “I am the light of the world.” The same thing he said to us: “You are the light of the world.” Then he added explaining what does mean to be the light of the world: “A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Mat. 5:14-16)
After the communion we chant our happiness with the light of Jesus, which is the light of the Holy Trinity, saying: “We have seen the true light, we have taken the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity Who has saved us.” Amen.