NB: Taken from our March–April print bulletin.
The Light of Christ
Out of the night my spirit waketh at dawn unto Thee, O God, for Thy commandments are a light upon the earth.
When we dwell in the darkness of sin, we imperil our souls with a journey in a strange land. The citizens of this land are the demons; they trade in pleasure and deception leading to destruction of the body and death of the soul. Having made ourselves their slaves, we no longer possess the necessities of life. Excess food and drink do not nourish us, but rather they open wide the gates of the passions. With our greedy mouths agape, we drool idle words and vomit harsh judgments and curses against our brothers and sisters. We not only overlook those in need, but horde for ourselves riches unlawfully gained. Everything beautiful and good that God has provided for our salvation, we have abused and perverted, exploiting our creative powers to devise new sins and bring others down into the pit with us. Nothing satisfying us, we hurdle headfirst, faster and deeper into the abyss of sin, into darkness and death.
But no matter how deep we find ourselves in those murky depths, Great Lent is a time of light. The short days of fall and winter open into the sunny ones of spring and summer. Although the church wears darker veils and sings more solemn strains, we find hope in the words of the Lenten Triodion that "now is the springtime of the fast, now is the time for repentance." It is time to recognize our sins, confess them openly to God, and embark on a new way of life through repentance. The words of St. Andrew of Crete that crown the first week of the Fast summon us:
My soul, my soul, rise up! Why are you sleeping? The end is drawing near and soon you will be troubled. Watch, then, that Christ our God may spare you, for He is everywhere present and fills all things.
During the Lenten Triodion period, just after we've read the Matins Gospel we beseech God to "open unto us the doors of repentance." When we repent, we turn our whole selves around to be warmed and illumined by the light of Christ, a light that—as we declare during the Lenten Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts—shines on all. We commune with Him Who is the Light through the fire of the Holy Mysteries, but also continually through fervent prayer. As fallen human beings, we couple prayer with fasting to train against the attacks of the enemy and the sinful inclinations we have nurtured within ourselves.
As the post-Gospel hymn about the doors of repentance continues, we strive to bring "our spirit early to the holy temple of the Lord, bringing the temple of our bodies all defiled," knowing that in the bosom of the one, holy, catholic, apostolic, and orthodox Church that "we have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly spirit, we have found the true faith." For this reason we celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy as the first shining Sunday feast of the Holy Forty-Days, followed immediately by the "light of Orthodoxy" St. Gregory Palamas, and thirdly the invincible weapon of the precious and life-giving Cross. Having received strength and hope through the Symbol of Victory, we celebrate two beacons of the ascetic life: St. John, whose Ladder has been for many a path to sanctification, and St. Mary of Egypt, whose sin-blackened life and sun-scorched skin could not conceal the luminous rays of God's grace that shown in her through her humility and repentance.
Fasting, praying, repenting, communing, we allow God's grace to shine in the gloomy chambers of our own hardened hearts, to wash away the filth that blinds the eyes of our soul, to invigorate our conscience with joyous love for Him and those near us. It is in this state of love and illumination that we hope to find ourselves at the Paschal call: Come receive ye light from the unwaning light, and glorify Christ Who has arisen from the dead! As we will hear in St. John's account of the Gospel on that radiant night, this Light is the Word Who was in the beginning, by Whom all things were made, in Whom is life that is the light of men, light that shines in darkness, light that enlightens every person that comes into the world. Light that is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
May we come to know Him in whose light we shall see light, and may we come to delight in His face, rejoicing with the angelic orders, the choirs of the saints, everything that has breath and all creation as we praise the Lord Who is risen and has raised us all with Himself.