St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

You Are the Light of the World

Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, July 19, 2009

Matthew 5:14-19 (Holy Fathers)

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

God has placed his light in all of creation.  The universe shimmers with divine energy.  Any doubt?  Take a look at the Hubble telescope pictures and all you can do is wonder at the grand explosions of color and shape that inhabit deep space.  The universe is filled to overflowing with such spontaneous and utterly unnecessary beauty.  For what reason?  None, but love.  Because God needs no other reason.  Energy, light and beauty, signs of God's presence, are everywhere if you care to look and have the eyes to see. 

In creating men and women God has done an even more marvelous thing. He has planted His light at the center of our being and has declared, "This is what you are," the light of the world. Jesus calls us "the Light of the World."  God is the Source of this light, the Divine Generator, but He has made us to be little generators, little power plants like mitochondria in the great big cell of the universe.  This is not a goal to be reached for, but a truth to be remembered.  Although to be the light of the world sounds like a very high level of spiritual attainment, it is merely the ground floor, the first level, the place where we must begin. We have sunk so deep into darkness that we mistake the ground floor for the penthouse.   Once realized, however, we never leave behind this fundamental reality.  It is both the beginning and the end.

We live underground like moles. The eyes we have been given to perceive light have atrophied for lack of use. We are afraid. The light will hurt our eyes and burn our pale skin. We do not dare to identify ourselves with light. We identify ourselves instead with the cozy darkness.  As St. John wrote, "men loved darkness more than the light."  So we have learned to say, "I am an angry person, a frightened person, an unworthy person, a sinful person" reveling in all kinds of negativity, judging and torturing ourselves needlessly.  Whenever we do this we show our preference for darkness. We need to let go of this negativity, believing in God's truth rather than our own delusions, in order to come to our senses.

Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden because they began to identify themselves with sin, guilt and shame.  They realized that they were "naked" and were afraid.  But what had changed?  They wore no clothes without shame before eating the forbidden fruit.  God had not changed.  Reality had not changed.  Their perception had changed.  "Nakedness" is a symbol of transparency, honesty and vulnerability.  Instead of seeing these three as virtues Adam and Eve began to fear them. They convinced themselves of two things: first that they needed to hide from God and second that it is possible to do so. Adam and Eve, representing humanity, descended from the light of consciousness into the darkness of delusion.  At that pivotal moment a war began. It is an interior war waged within against God and against His image. We declare war on ourselves doing all we can to put out the light.  We suffer in a cycle of pain we are responsible for perpetuating. It is a war the darkness cannot win because the light cannot be extinguished, but think of the unnecessary suffering and collateral damage this war causes!  No matter how far we fall away from God the truth remains, the candle still burns. There is always hope. 

God's rescue mission in Christ was meant to return us to consciousness and sanity.  His life, death and resurrection accomplished this for us. We are invited to participate.  The darkness in us must die, or rather, be transformed into light. The Holy Spirit is implanted deep in the heart where the war is being waged and He becomes Himself our defender, our guide, our comfort.  It is His aim, with our unceasing cooperation to bring the war to an end.  The Holy Spirit invites us to come out of hiding.  Divine Love whispers to each one, "There is no need to hide from the God who loves you. You are not the evil that you do, but the goodness in which you have been made.  God remains forever your Father and you are forever His child.  How long, my child, do you want to suffer."

Within us there is an ocean of light, a luminous core, a divine energy nothing can extinguish.  It is this light Jesus refers to when he says, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven."  We are, my dear friends, the light that shines with Jesus in the darkness.  This is an objective truth and the very luminous ground of our being.