A Great Light
A Homily for the First Sunday after Epiphany
By Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
A Great Light
(The First Sunday after Epiphany – Matthew 4:12-18)
Hundreds of years before the Savior was born, the prophet Isaiah, living in a dark time of tyranny and cruelty, foretold the coming of a great light:
The people who sat in the darkness have seen a great light,
And for those who sat in the region and shadow of death,
Light has dawned (Is. 9:2).
The “great light” foretold by Isaiah centuries before was none other than our Lord Jesus. He came as light into the dark world.
That is the meaning of the Jesus’ sayings: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jon 8:12), and later: “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (Jon 12:46).
Whoever “believes in me” and “follows me”, says Jesus, does not “remain in darkness”, but “already has the light of life”. What is this light? The light is the symbol of the truth. That is why we sing at Christmas: “Your nativity, O Christ our God, has shed the light of knowledge upon the world”. Darkness is the symbol of the ignorance and of the sin. In the darkness of ignorance and sin, in which men were living, God sent His Only-Begotten Son to enlighten all the human beings. In Christ we know who God is. This is the light. In Christ we know who we are. This is the light. In Christ we know the way of life for which man was created. This is the light. In Christ we have the answer to the riddle of death. This is the light. All this has been revealed to us by Christ who is the Light of the World. St. Paul says: “God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
In the life of Jesus three lights were manifested: the light of Nativity symbolized by the star that lead the Magi from the East to worship the Savior, it is the light of faith: we believe that Jesus is the Son of God; the light of the Resurrection, which is the light of hope in eternal life; and the light of Pentecost, which is the light of Love; for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Love.
The story of our Christian live is the story of our illumination by Jesus. Jesus came as “a great light” to those who languished in darkness. He was – and still is – the world’s greatest candle lighter. In Him was light. The light was the light of men. He comes as a light to those who are sitting in the darkness of ignorance, despair, and hatred. To those who sit in the darkness of ignorance, He lights the candle of knowledge; to those who are sitting in the darkness of despair, He lights the candle of hope and to those who sit in the darkness of hatred, He lights the candle of love; and with these three theological virtues he lights candles of joy, forgiveness, peace, and meaning in the lives of people today.
When we enter the church we light a candle. The processions of the Gospel and of the offerings are accompanied by candles. This is to remind us that we have received light form Christ and that, like Him, we too, ought to be lighting candles in the lives of people.
After the communion we chant our happiness with the light of Jesus, which is the light of the Holy Trinity, saying: “We have seen the true light, we have taken the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity Who has saved us.” Amen.