Catholic News Service
As a community of faith, we are a people who not only seek light, but who crave and welcome light — the light of hope, joy and love present in our risen Lord who declares, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12).
Indeed, the power and pre-eminence of light as a symbol of faith and hope is established from the first chapter of Scripture: “God said: Let there be light, and there was light. God saw that the light was good” (Gn 1:3-4).
These words, from the first reading of the Easter Vigil, the holiest night of the liturgical year, connect us to the Scriptures of Epiphany and its focus on light.
“Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!” proclaims Isaiah (60:1). “Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.”
The Gospel reading, from St. Matthew, is bathed in images of light, as the Magi from the East follow the star of the newborn king of the Jews “at its rising,” until it stops at the house where Jesus lay. “They were overjoyed at seeing the star,” Matthew writes (Mt 2:10).
Indeed, with the birth of the Son of God, light has entered the world in a new way, just as foretold by Isaiah (60:2-3): “Upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.”
Of all the signs and symbols of God’s presence in the world, light is, for me, probably the strongest of all. From my youth, I can recall making a candle from a paper plate and cardboard tube, decorating it with green and gold glitter, and — even though I couldn’t light it, obviously — feeling a sense of comfort and warmth by holding that scruffy little candle.
In fact, I have always found comfort and peace from candlelight: the lighting of candles during Advent, for example, or the service of light that begins the Easter Vigil, or lighting a candle each night at the dinner table with my family prior to our mealtime prayer.
A line from Psalm 119 — “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path” — speaks powerfully to me, telling me that God is present and real in our world.
That kind of light is sorely needed in our world that too often dwells in the darkness of fear, turmoil, suspicion and hatred. The light of love promised and delivered by God — like the light of the star that led the Magi to where God’s newborn son lay in a humble manger — is what all of us are called to reflect to one another.
“Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father,” says Jesus (Mt 5:15). Good advice as we begin our new year.