One of my favorite things is praying in the church when the only light is the gentle glow of the sanctuary lamp. It reminds me that no matter how dark things get, as long as Jesus is with me there will be light. And He is always with me. I need only turn my gaze to Him. As St. Elizabeth of the Trinity prays, “O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that I may not withdraw from Your radiance.”
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
This verse at the beginning of John has always intrigued me. The tense “has not” seems to allude to my own human uncertainty and the necessity of remembrance. When I am in darkness, I can wonder if we will ever see the light again. I can wonder if we will ever find happiness. I can wonder if God is love. But the darkness has not overcome the light. I can remember how God has come through, not just for His people but also in my own life. He who said, “let there be light” (Genesis 1) wants to speak those words into the dark corners of my heart and re-kindle Christ’s life within me.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2).
There may be times when it seems like light has vanished, but somehow in some way, it returns. In Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word, Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis reflects on how “the star is as much a character in this drama as are the Magi, Herod, and the Child. It appears and disappears at will; and it moves with total certainty and obedience toward the place that draws it toward itself.”
Just like the Magi, there may be moments when I cannot see the Great Light. But that doesn’t mean He isn’t there, continuing to guide me home. Even in the darkness.
“Even the darkness is not dark to you, the night is as bright as the day; for darkness is as light with you” (Psalm 139).
When I am in darkness, when I want light, I sometimes think I find myself asking for the wrong thing. This light isn’t consolation. It isn’t knowing what is going on or where to go. This light is the light of a God who is with me. A God who reveals Himself as Emmanuel. This is the light that isn’t overcome.
That is why “they will need no light from a lamp or the sun…” and “awake o sleeper arise from death and Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:14). That is, Christ will give me Himself. When I ask for light, I need to remember that I am asking for someone and not something.
As St. Bernard writes, “It is good for me to be sad, O Lord, as long as you are with me, rather than to be a king apart from you, to feast without you, to boast without you. It is better for me to embrace you in tribulation, to have you with me in the furnace, than to be without you in heaven” (Office of Readings for St. Pancras, Martyr).
The light is a person. The light is Jesus. The light is Emmanuel, God-with-us.
“I am the light of the world; he who follows me will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Light, and our interaction with it, is fascinating. Our eyes do not see the objects themselves, but rather the light that is reflected by the objects. If there is no light, I cannot see. And this is very true for the spiritual life. I cannot truly see other people, situations, or things apart from Him.
When I cry out, “Master, I want to see!” it is the same as saying, “Master, Jesus, I want You!” I want You to be near me. I need You in order to see, because without you—without the light of the world—I am merely grasping at shadows. I want to see things as they really are. I want to see them in Your light.
“The Light of Christ. Thanks be to God.”