On the night of Holy and Great Pascha we stood in our dark churches prepared to receive the “Light from the unwaning light” and begin our celebration. For those few moments our eyes were fixed on the candle coming from the Holy of Holies, spreading from person to person until the Church was ablaze with light. For those few moments we didn’t even notice the darkness outside the Church, and our hearts were lifted up into heaven as we sang Christ is Risen from dead.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could live every moment like it was Midnight of Holy Pascha? Wouldn’t it be great if we could always be so focused on the Light in the Holy of Holies that we didn’t notice the darkness that surrounds us? Well, we can if we follow Christ. In today’s Gospel reading (you can read the entire passage below) we hear Christ’s promise, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
I remember as a young boy camping in the mountains of Colorado, how different the forest was at night. Having no ability to see, the sounds coming from behind trees and rocks brought with them images of mountain lions and bears. I never once saw a mountain lion or bear (though I know the existed) but there were many nights I was convinced one was just outside my tent. A simple “click” of my flashlight and I was comforted if even for a moment that we were safe. I learned early that when it came to darkness, light kept us safe.
We may not “see” the darkness that Christ is referring to in today’s Gospel, but it is real. Lurking around every corner is a demon waiting to temp us into sin. Hiding under every magazine cover is a demon waiting to enter our heart. The only thing that will keep us safe is the Light of Christ shining in our hearts. There may have been mountain lions just beyond the reach of my flashlight many years ago, but so long as the light was shining, it stayed away, and so will the demons.
Demons hate the light of Christ. This is why we Orthodox Christians light vigil lamps on our home altars using the Holy Light we received at Pascha. It is a reminder that Christ is with us, inside us through Holy Communion, shining through our choice to follow Him. As He promised, we will not walk in darkness if we follow Him. I never went camping without a flashlight, and we shouldn’t go through life without the Light of Christ.
Flashlights need batteries; the Light of Christ needs Holy Communion. When we received Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ, each Sunday, it is like charging our batteries. The longer we wait; the longer we don’t attend Divine Liturgy or receive Holy Communion, the weaker our batteries become and eventually the Light fades to where it no longer shines. Then we will find ourselves in the darkness, in danger of demons and temptation. Wouldn’t you rather have the light to keep them away?
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." The Pharisees then said to him, "You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true." Jesus answered, "Even if I do bear witness to myself, my testimony is true, for I know whence I have come and whither I am going, but you do not know whence I come or whither I am going. You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two men is true; I bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me." They said to him therefore, "Where is your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also." These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come. – John 8.12-20