The theme of Christ as Light was a prominent theme in the Christmas season. The Gospel proclaimed at Mass on Christmas day is the prologue of John’s Gospel which presents Christ as “the light [that] shines in the darkness,” (v.5) and “the true light, which enlightens everyone” (v.9). The prologue was proclaimed once again at the Mass of the seventh day of Christmas.
This theme of light merged with the feast of the Epiphany as a feast of Christ the Light of all nations. In the Eastern churches, Epiphany is associated with the Baptism of the Lord, and in the West with the visit of the Magi. However, in both, the image of Christ as Light is used.
St Gregory Nazianzen, contrasts the light of Christ with the darkness of sin and ignorance: “Moreover he is called Light as being the Brightness of souls cleansed by word and life. For if ignorance and sin be darkness, knowledge and a godly life will be Light.” (Oration 30.VI)
If we are born in what St Thomas Aquinas calls the double darkness of sin and ignorance, we can see the need for Light to become one of us in Jesus, as St. Athanasius explains: “For that was the very purpose and end of our Lord’s Incarnation, that He should join what is human by nature to Him who is by nature God, that so humanity might enjoy His salvation and His union with God without any fear of its failing or decrease.” (Oration II.70)
It is the Light of Christ which allows humanity to become holy, as Augustine writes of John the Baptist and John the Evangelist: “This light enlightened John the Baptist, and also John the Evangelist.” This same light is what allows the saints to become saints throughout the history of the Church. (Tract. 1 on Gospel of John)
Yet illumination with Christ is not forced upon all of humanity, but as it is written in John’s prologue, needs to be accepted: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.” (vv. 10-11) According to Saint Augustine, this failure to accept Christ the light is rooted in a spiritual illness. “Something similar occurs,” preached Augustine, “with a blind man facing the sun. The sun is present to him, but the blind man is absent to the sun. The same occurs with someone with a foolish, unjust, impious, or blind heart. Wisdom is present before such a heart, but to such a heart, it is as if it were not.” (Tract. 1 on Gospel of John)
In the next sermon, Augustine suggests the root of this spiritual illness is pride, when he preaches the cure to the blindness of heart is Christ himself by way of his humility. “Truly, the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and by virtue of this humble mystery the eyes of our heart could be cleansed, so we can see his majesty through his humility.” Later on in the same sermon he preaches, “No one could see his glory unless one be cured by the flesh of Jesus…By means of his flesh the vices of our flesh are extinguished, and by means of his death, death is extinguished, so that as this mystery happens in you, you too can say, ‘and we saw his glory.’” (Tract. 2 on Gospel of John)
Let us pray to Our Mother of Good Counsel who holds close to her the face of Our Lord Jesus: O Holy Mother of God, pray for us that in contemplating the humble birth of your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and especially when receiving Him in the humble mystery of the Eucharist, we may be cleansed of pride and all sin, so the eyes of our heart can behold Him and through His Light become the saints He calls us to be.