Light vs Darkness
Light verses Darkness. Many movies take up the theme of Good vs. Evil and they portray this battle as Light vs. Darkness. Well, this is also a very common theme we see in Holy Scriptures. For example, in today’s Gospel reading, we hear the Evangelist Matthew quote Isaiah the Prophet foretelling the coming of the Messiah by saying, “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death, Light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16
What does it mean “people who sat in darkness and in the region and shadow of death?”
Well, without God, the world is full of darkness, with many different forms of darkness overwhelming people. The coming of Jesus Christ, however, changed this world of darkness, and brought light and life! Today I want to highlight several aspects of darkness which threatens all of us, and show how God’s divine light dispels every type of darkness.
Our Christian Faith teaches that God is light, and He brings His Divine Light into a dark world of sin and death. And for those who choose to live in that light, who choose to be filled with divine light, then St. Paul says this about you: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light… Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:8,11)
You are and I am Light. We are children of light and are called to walk each and every day in that light!
Light vs. Darkness. In my Christmas sermon two weeks ago, I used this imagery to describe how the Divine Light had come into the world through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. This past week, we celebrated the feast of Epiphany (Theophany), which is also called the Feast of Lights. This feast celebrates how God enlightened the world by revealing Himself as the Holy Trinity – God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
God’s light shines in the darkness of the world, and chases away all shadows of darkness. Well, let’s look at several areas of darkness which God dispels from our lives if we choose to walk with Him. He dispels the darkness of Ignorance, Sin, Hatred, Pride, Violence, and Death.
First, the darkness of IGNORANCE. We know that all types of education and knowledge open up our minds to understand the world and our reality in new ways. Yet the greatest ignorance one can experience is that of not knowing the One who created us, not knowing God. And unfortunately, too many people today in our society are growing up with an secular perspective that pushes God out of their worldview. They don’t know, or don’t even want to know, about who created us, and why He created us. The darkness of atheism, of agnosticism, of denying or simply not knowing God, is a terrible ignorance. It is a worldview where we choose to live without connecting to the source of the true life, love and light.
Of course, the feast of Christmas we celebrated two weeks ago is primarily the feast of God becoming one of us and revealing Himself to the world. In the person of Jesus Christ, we can know our Creator. In Jesus Christ we see God as a human being, and learn about the potential of a true human being. During this new year, may each of us strive to grow more in our knowledge of who Jesus is. Read Holy Scripture daily and strive to learn our Orthodox Christian faith better. Discover who God truly is, because then we will learn who we truly are. This divine knowledge will lead us out of the darkness of ignorance.
Ignorance of God leads to another darkness. As the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky put it, “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted. If there is no God, then there are no rules to live by, no moral law we must follow. We can do whatever we want.” The darkness of ignorance leads to a DARKNESS OF SIN AND EVIL. If we don’t know God, we won’t know what God expects from us. When we push God out of our lives, we deaden our conscience. We begin to create our own standard of right and wrong, good and evil and eventually create a standard that justifies whatever we want. Our lives become egocentric. When C. S. Lewis was an atheist, he talked about not wanting any “Great Interferer” in his life. As long as he didn’t believe in God, or know anything about God, then he could do whatever he wanted. This leads to the darkness of sin and evil. We create our own right and wrong.
Such egocentric darkness can then lead to the DARKNESS OF HATRED. We hate others because we don’t understand them as people created in the image of God. When one does something that displeases us, or hurts us, we hold on to bitterness and resentment towards them because the darkness of our souls blind us to the virtues of mercy, grace and forgiveness. Hatred leads to self-righteous bitterness and resentment.
God’s light radically changes this dark perspective. We learn the teachings of Christ - Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek. Do good to those who mistreat you. Forgive 7 x 70. Become perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. These radical teachings of Christ chase the darkness of egocentric hatred away. Of course, it is hard to forgive when one has seriously hurt us. It is hard to love someone who mistreats us, or even hates us. It is hard to turn the other cheek when someone isn’t repentant. Yet God never tells us to do such things on our own. What is impossible for humans is possible for God. The Lord promises to shine His light into our darkened souls and His light will show us the way to love, to forgive, to treat others, even our enemies, with kindness and goodness. The light of God enlightens our path and leads us into the kingdom of heaven here and now!
Ultimately, the greatest darkness we face in the world is the final darkness of death. The mystery of death which encompasses us all. Today, we are remembering several memorials of dear parishioners who died one, three, four or five years ago. In the Dudley community, we are mourning the sudden and tragic death of a high school senior, Emily Dabrowski. Death can come at any age, and for many we fear this final darkness full of mystery. For one who doesn’t believe in God, then death is the end of everything. And it is a horrible ending.
Yet for those who know Jesus Christ, light has dawned in the regions of death. We no longer are afraid of death because we know it is not the end. Christ has conquered death and opened up the gates of eternal paradise. His divine light has shone forth in the darkest region of death, and burst forth new life! So even this most fearful end of our earthly life becomes the beginning of a new eternal life in Him!
Light verses Darkness. We have a choice to make in this life. Do we want to live under the light of Jesus Christ, and allow His light to transform our entire perspective on living, or will we choose to ignore this light, and allow the darkness of the world to engulf us and lead us to despair. As we begin a new year with the feast of Christmas and Theophany still fresh in our minds, let each of us choose to walk in the divine light of God each and every moment of every day!
Myron the Martyr of Cyzicus; Straton, Philip, Eutychian, & Cyprian the Martyrs of Nicomedea; Afterfeast of the Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary; Demetrios the New, Righteous-Martyr of Samaria; Eutychios, Eutychianos and Kassiani the siblings; Paul, Juliana, and those martyred with them (the executioners)