For ye were sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light. (Eph. 5:8)
Our Lord Jesus Christ came to earth to bring light to a world which lay in darkness. He came in order that this light might shine in the hearts of men and overcome the darkness of sin and death which held men in bondage. "Ye are the light of the world,'* said the Lord to His disciples. Even so, we who have received the grace of illumination through the Mystery of Baptism have the possibility--and the responsibility--to shed this light abroad, especially now as the forces of darkness prepare for their brief hour of triumph. Our light, however, is dim, barely visible. We may have cheerful, smiling faces, but do our hearts possess a similar radiance? Do they reflect the light of Christ--alight which has power to transfigure the world?
Every person has two images, that of the man and that of the ‘inner’ man. The outer man is that expression or "portrait" of a person which is shown to the world--to other people. Whenever we are with other people, we, of course, present our most attractive side. The way a person "walks before God" depends on the relationship between the outer man and his inner self.
Even a person who lacks inner harmony may outwardly appear well-mannered, decent and proper. This, however, is due only to his external restraint. It is enough to remove the "world" before which he feels compelled to present a pleasant picture, and the man reveals an innermost essence altogether unlike his attractive "portrait." The same holds true of families. How grievous it is for spiritual fathers to learn that outwardly happy and model families are often plagued by arguments, irritability, rudeness and outbursts of temper.
But what do we see in someone whose outer image is in harmony with his inner spiritual life? Here we see the beginning of the light bearing action of God's grace upon the soul, the light of Mount Tabor, St. Gregory Palamos explains that just as the light of God once appeared to Moses on Mt. Sinai, just as it appeared on Mt. Tabor at Our Lord' s Transfiguration, so too a man may experience this uncreated light, provided his life is sanctified by the grace of prayer, of fasting, and other labors of self-denial.
Probably the most striking case of such grace-bearing illumination of the soul manifested itself in St. Seraphim of Sarov who was truly "a heavenly man and an earthly angel” This fiery miracle-worker of the Orthodox Church, whose entire life was devoted to acquiring the Holy Spirit, was granted a special gift from God while still on earth. On more than one occasion he radiated this uncreated light to such a degree that, according to the eyewitness Motovilov, it was impossible to look at his face because it shone like the sun.
God's Providence has even put the image of spiritual transfiguration into nature. Who is not struck with awe at the arrival of spring when the naked branches of the trees suddenly come to life and are clothed in fresh green foliage? Who has not experienced a certain gratifying feeling welling up within him at dawn when the night wanes and the new day begins? What blissful silence! What glorious peace! What joy enters the heart of a man when he sees darkness imperceptibly give way to light, when his ears begin to catch sound of the distant chirping of birds gradually swelling into a triumphant hymn to the Creator of all. Stars slowly dissolve in the fading darkness and the eastern sky comes alive with marvelous and indescribable hues. It is impossible for a sensitive man, one who is not wholly preoccupied with the vanities of life, to remain indifferent to this lesson offered by nature and not to feel his own soul awakening with the dawn and his spiritual life gaining new strength.
These examples give us hope for our own transfiguration. While it is exceptionally rare in this life to attain such a grace-filled state as to be visibly illumined by divine light, we are all called to be children of light and to carry this light into the world. Therefore, we must focus our attention upon Christ, the Source of light. "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light" (Matt. 6:22). In this way our inner man will gradually be transformed, and we shall progress from strength to strength. By struggling to acquire in our hearts the grace of prayer, contrition and forgiveness, accompanied by fasting and good works, we shall begin to experience for ourselves the mysteries of the spiritual life. To help us in this struggle, Christ has given us His Body, i.e., the Church. And how wonderful and comforting it is to abide in the Church which gives the glorious possibility of restoring the soul, of destroying with tears the sin in one's heart, and of partaking of the spiritual world through union with God.
We sense the forces of darkness working powerfully in the world to hasten the course of the Apostasy. But through Christ's Resurrection we have been given the promise that good will triumph over evil, that light will swallow up darkness, and that we ourselves shall be resurrected, because death has no more right to life. What blessed hope! What cause for rejoicing!
Let us cherish our communion with the Church; it may well be that the day is not far removed when the Lord will call upon His followers to confess their faith. And let us pray that at that terrible hour when our soul is parted from its earthly vessel, and when all sorrows and vanity are left behind, we shall be illumined by the wondrous uncreated light of Mt. Tabor and remain forever enveloped in the rays of Divine grace, glorifying our Creator.
Archpriest Valery Lukianov
St. Alexander Neysky Church, Lakewood, NJ