In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the lift was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the Light, that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but came to bear witness to the Light. The true Light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.
John 1: 1-8
The first thing God created was light.
The light of the sun is what allows things to grow. It is what provides warmth.
The Son of God, Jesus Christ, came to earth two thousand years ago, to give light to a world darkened by sin. He came to give hope to a fallen humanity. He came to show us a way back to the Paradise that we had lost.
Holy Week has given us another opportunity to relearn and relive the events of His Passion. We have been “consumers” of hymns, scriptures, prayers and sermons. We have been “recipients” of sacraments of Holy Communion and Holy Unction. And now comes the opportunity to recommit ourselves to the Christian life.
The Tradition of the giving of the Light at the Anastasi has great meaning for us. The ritual seems simple, a priest with a solitary candle, emerges from the altar and all the faithful light their candles. But it is more than that.
The church is darkened. The darkness resembles many corners of our darkened world. It resembles the corner of a darkened soul. And yet, the darkness of the church cannot conquer the single candle left burning on the altar. If darkness is the absence of light, then the church is not completely dark. One light is left shining in the darkness—the Light of Christ. As long as there is “some” light, there can be no darkness. We know that the Light of Christ is present in each human soul. Thus no soul can be totally dark. We can try to cover up Christ. But we cannot remove Him from our souls.
Some people feel like Christ is absent from their lives. For some the flame of Christianity flickers with sadness and uncertainty. For some the flame burns brightly but is careless exposed to winds of temptation. For some the flame burns but not as brightly as it could. And for some the flame shines brightly, ready to shine and illuminate others, ready to show the love of Christ, by showing love to others.
Tonight, there is an opportunity to again receive His Light, for His Light to touch your soul. If your flame is flickering, receive His Light as renewed strength to keep His Light burning in your life. If your flame is burning brightly, receive it and allow it to burn with even more joy. And if you feel like you have no Light in you, make this an opportunity to receive the Light and make a new start, a restart, maybe even a first start.
The priest emerges from the altar with the Light of Christ, the Light that shines in the darkness, the Light that can set aflame even the darkest soul. We are not merely lighting candles, but receiving the Light of Christ. As you light your candle, gaze at the flame in the darkness. See how its brightness contrasts to the darkness. And realize how the Light of Christ can illuminate your life, even in its darkest and most difficult times. Feel its warmth. It is amazing how a little flame can create enough heat to make you feel warm all over. Realize that the Light of Christ can warm your spirit, even in times when you are sad. And then look at all the lights around you. See how the darkened church quickly becomes bright with the Light of the Lord. And imagine what it would be like if everyone had their light shining this bright in our everyday lives.
The beautiful hymns of Pascha will tell us to let everything begin anew in the Light of the Resurrected Christ. So, receive the Light and make a new start in your walk with Christ. Make a new start in as many areas of your life as you can. Maybe your marriage needs a new start. Or a friendship. Maybe your prayer life or reading scriptures. Receive the Light and using it as a jumping off point to a renewed life.
Behold, it is early and still dark. And why, O Mary, are you standing outside at the tomb, with much darkness covering your mind, such that you seek where Jesus has been laid? But see how the Disciples, who ran together, understood the resurrection from the linen cloths and the napkin, and then remembered the scripture concerning this. With them and through them, we also have believed, and we extol You, Christ the Giver of life.
Come receive the light, from the never-setting light; and glorify Christ who has risen from the dead.
(From the Matins of the Resurrection, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Come receive the Light!