Lux Mundi

Photo by Rahul on

When I think about light, I always the same image that comes to mind. The is a diffuse, greyish cast to the sky. The waves roll over one another from the edge of the horizon all the way up to my feet, growing and falling away. The line that divides the sea and sky carries a sense of quiet gloom. I stand and I watch and I wait.

Then, it happens. At first, it is nothing more than a sliver, a single line coming to life along the grey expanse. But it spreads out along the horizon, it bends and curves into being and begins the slow drift out of the sea. Warmth radiates across the waves as the great celestial disk rises to its place in the sky.

For many people sunrise evokes similar feelings of tranquility and grandeur. Much of this is psychological, having to do with our associations of light, sunrises, and what meaning we give them. But I think part of it is physical as well. 

Light has ten different properties, and each contributes to our physical and emotional well-being in some way. Each of these properties contributes to some aspect of our existence and how we relate to the environment around us. Light and its presence can be constructive. It can provide warmth from its radiant energy or work with the physical and chemical elements of our eyes to give us the ability to see. Light and its presence can also be destructive. We can focus light into beams that can cut through practically anything imaginable. The absence of light can cause its own problems. Not being able to see is dangerous for movement. Not being exposed to enough light can cause certain vitamin deficiencies, as well as seasonal affective disorder, or other emotional responses. All this to say, light, expressed by the right properties, is necessary for our existence.

I think this is why the writer of our gospel message chose to use light as a metaphor for Jesus coming into existence. Light is mentioned five times here in this passage and thirty times in the five books of the New Testament we call Johannine literature. The passage we read tells of the light shining in the darkness and not being overtaken by it and John the Baptist being the one who will testify to the light, what it is and where it is. The word for light is being used here as a metaphor and I think it most likely alludes to a spiritual illumination, a means of having our minds and spirits opened to another way of seeing from our natural, and sometimes taught, ways of seeing. It is means of finding our way or finding our way again. 

The Light the gospel writer is talking about allows us to see things of life clearly. The life and teachings of Jesus are meant to illuminate our understanding of ourselves and the world we live in as well as how to reshape that world into the Kin-dom of Heaven or the place where we live in wholeness with God and each other. John 8 talks about this when it says, “Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.”[1] Jesus is our guide, the one who can make the way of life, the path of life illuminated by his teaching, both spoken and lived. If we chose to follow this path, this way, we will not stumble as much through life, struggling as those who walk without illumination.

Once we have embraced the light and learn to walk in it, we are called to help others walk in the light as well. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. People do not light a lamp and put it under the bushel basket; rather, they put it on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”[2] In other words we are—by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, following the teachings of Jesus—to illuminate the world around us. It is our calling as the hand and feet of Jesus in this time and place to help other find and live into the Way of Jesus.

The questions to consider are will we be light and what kind? Are we willing to live into a way of being at odds with the current political, religious, and social climate in order to be the people Jesus called us to be and live the Jesus Way of Life? And when we do, what kind of light? The kind that brings warmth and illumination to hurting souls? The kind that burns people for being what we have decided isn’t in line with our version of churchianity? 

[1] John 8:12

[2] Matthew 5:14-16