The Light That Began It All
Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, July 13, 2014
The reading is from Matthew 5:14-19 (Holy Fathers)
This Gospel is used to point to the importance we place on sharing the message of Christ to the world. The Holy Fathers of the Fourth and all the other six councils met in order to ensure that the Gospel was understood correctly. The intimation is that the bushel with which we try to hide the light is a lack of courage to share it and ignorance of its true meaning. Therefore ... Councils!
Of course, there is more to this Gospel about Light. It goes to the root of everything because Light is the foundation of everything!
When God said in Genesis 1, “Let there be light.” What happened? There was light and God divided the light from the darkness and the first day was born. But the sun and moon were not created until the fourth day! So, this light was not the light of the sun and moon.
Some say that this light was the Light of God shining over the face of the waters, the primordial darkness and chaos over which the Spirit of God was hovering. The Bible says that there was evening first - darkness, nothingness - and then there was morning, the light appeared, and that was the first day.
From nothingness came everything as soon as light appeared. God unveiled his light and the universe began to take shape.
Some have said that this light was the light of what we call the Big Bang, the great explosion of energy and matter that formed everything that is and will be. That is a tantalizing interpretation. We do not know for sure, of course, no one was there to see it! Not even Moses! But perhaps that is so and that’s about all we can say.
This is all conjecture, of course. The Bible is not a science book and there is simply not enough information in Genesis 1 to explain everything we want to know. Still, it points us in a direction and that direction is God who created all things in a process that begins with, “Let there be light! And there was!”
The early church father Justin Martyr taught that the Logos, the Word of God, is active throughout all the universe. He used the term logos spermatikos to say that every teacher who spoke well and spoke truly throughout the whole world possessed part of the logos which is completely gathered together in Jesus Christ. This is to say that the Light of God shines and permeates the whole universe and is the foundation of everything that exists. That is why Jesus can say that everyone who seeks will find. Everyone because the logos is everywhere. God is everywhere. God’s light, his energy, is the very ground of our being.
The same light that began it all is the light of Christ, “God from God, Light from Light.” “Blessed is God who illumines everyone who comes into the world,” we sing at baptisms. At the Presanctified Liturgy the priest turns holding the censor and a candle, faces the congregation and chants, “The Light of Christ illumines all!”
So, there is light in each of us and light permeates all of creation. Even darkness is punctuated by it. “I love the light because it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for its shows me the stars.” (Og Mandino)
The point is this. Jesus tells us that we are the Light of the world. You and I. And His Gospel is Light for He is the Source of Light, His words are pure energy, the power that creates and heals and brings forth new life where new life is needed.
We must not hide this light from ourselves or from the world. We must share it, but first we must see it. We must become enlightened bearers of the light within us, the Light of God, the very spark, says Gregory Nyssa, of God’s divinity. If we allow ourselves to become aware of the light of Christ within us and the light of Christ around us, then the world we shall see, is illumined through and through as Christ’s body was permeated through and through with divinity, like charcoal in a fire. Like Seraphim of Sarov, we too will come to see ourselves, our companions and all of creation bathed in God’s light.
In Fr. Schmemann’s memoirs we read of his encounter with a tree not long before he died which he saw suddenly blazing with light, alive and beautiful and transcendent. The Russian pilgrim, after years of prayer, is startled by a vision of creation blazing with light just like Fr. Schmemann. Our theology is preeminently a theology of Light thanks to Jesus and John’s Gospel and reality.
Let me end with one of my favorite quotes from the mystic Hafiz about us and about light.
“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.”
Granted this vision, we would never again be afraid of the dark.