by Chris Banescu -
As the Christmas season fades into the distance and the New Year is upon us, we tend to feel the passage of time most acutely. With the conclusion of the bright and joyous celebrations that commemorate and bear witness to the birth of the Messiah, we often experience a sense of loss, of sadness. We never seem to have enough time to fully immerse ourselves in the feast and absorb the joy and peace that our souls yearn to rediscover and embrace. It all goes by much too quickly. We find ourselves heading back towards the daily routines of our lives, feeling weary, tired, and spent. The light inside us that burned so brightly a few days ago is flickering.
In response, writes Fr. Alexander Schmemann, “come words from an infinite loftiness and an infinite profundity” from the Gospel of Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist. Jesus Christ “was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name… And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace” (John 1:9-12, 16).
These passages are “thoroughly imbued with the joy, confidence, and love of a man who has seen the light of true life.” They tell us that Christ, the True Light, is there, not only in the Nativity season but throughout the year. If we listen attentively to them and believe, then that very same joy, confidence, and love can truly begin to be rekindled in our own souls and fill our hearts with the living water that whoever drinks “will never thirst again”; the water that will become in man “a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4-14).
Christ came in order that man should live again. He restores the image of God in us, helping us become what we should have been from the beginning. Time is powerless, death is overcome, and man finds true meaning in life when this eternal light shines before us, Fr. Alexander reminds us.
Time is powerless if this light shines above us. Life is not vain, life is not chance, but is a gift from on high, from God, about Whom the same John the Theologian said that in Him was life, and this life was the light of man (John 1:4). And every man that comes into this world is once again set alight, is once again gifted this life, and the love of God is addressed to each one of them, and to each one of them is addressed God’s commandment: “Live!”
Live, in order to love! Live, so that your life will be filled with love, light, wisdom, and knowledge! Live, so that in your life darkness, meaninglessness, and eventually death itself will be overcome! For eternity already shines through this world and through this earthly life. This gift of life in the world and with the world is given us that eternal life with God and in God may become part of us.
Even when the daily struggles, afflictions, and cares of this world threaten to overwhelm us, we must not lose hope. Christ lights our way in the darkness and helps us overcome the suffering and trials of this life. His love shines in our hearts and souls, continually reassuring us that we can triumph over darkness and shine through with His light.
Yes, suffering, doubt, trials, the bitterness of separation – all these have fully become part of our lot. How often we are weakened in this battle, and give up, and fall, and change! How often we are scared and lonely, how often we lose heart when we see how evil and hatred are triumphing in the world!
But the One Who gave us this life and granted us freedom taught us to discern good and evil; He gave us the loftiest of all gifts: love. For He said, and continues to say: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We, too, can overcome in this very world, and in it our lives can shine with that same light that once flashed forth and continues to shine – that light that the darkness has not overcome.
As we welcome the new year don’t allow the daily cares and concerns drown out the Word of God. As we continue on this earthly journey, don’t be overcome by the darkness and evil of the world. As we inevitably face the trials and tribulations of this life, don’t let them extinguish the light inside us. Believe in Christ and let His Light shine through in our lives.
Just as sunlight penetrates through closed shutters, so too let the light of Christ, through this mysterious holiday, become present in our daily lives, rendering our entire lives an ascent, a communion with God – a difficult but joyful path to eternal life. For the Apostle John said: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Let us not never forget the words of the Evangelist John regarding Jesus Christ, the Word and Son of God, the everlasting Light of all mankind. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). Christ was and is the “true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9).
Christ is always there to comfort, nourish, and rejuvenate our bodies and souls. He is there to illumine our hearts and bring us into everlasting communion with God. If we remember this powerful truth, then all our temporary sadness, disappointments, and despair will be assuaged. If we have faith in Him, we can experience true joy. If we embrace His uncreated light, then all darkness is scattered. If we believe in Him, whose Resurrection destroyed death by death, even death loses its power over us and we receive the gift of eternal life. For He proclaimed “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10) and His word is true.