Reflections in Christ

"Thoughts In Christ"
by Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky




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January 8, 2006 - Bulletin 10, Volume XLIII
Light and Darkness
Written by the Very Rev. Vladimir Berzonsky

“Glory to Thee Who has shown us the light” (Matins)

Like so many, my mother had a lifelong fear of the dark. When she visited us, we always left a light on in her bedroom. I recall riding once with her. She was musing on death. She asked, “When we die, will we remain in darkness?”

‘No, Mom,” I replied, “In the Kingdom of heaven everything will be illumined. Don’t you remember how Jesus said, ‘I am the Light of the world,’ (John 9:5) and ‘While you have light believe in the light, that you may become children of light’ (John 12:30). We both believe in Jesus, so when we follow Him to heaven, we will be always in the light.”

She patted my knee and whispered, “Thank you.”

I could have continued explaining that the opposite of light is stumbling around in the dark, a lesson that our loving Lord used referring to the unfortunate man in the gospel of John who was born blind. Before He restored the man’s sight, our Lord Jesus told the disciples that spiritual blindness is worse than the physical kind. Worse in two ways: First, at least the sightless in this lifetime will be liberated from their impairment after death, and second, that those with perfect vision too often fail to realize that they are walking about as spiritual ghosts. They are dead to God, yet they take it as normal. They live on earth as though they were already in Hades, yet they ignore or mock their plight. The Greek word for hell, or Hades [adees] means “without a view.” In modern jargon, “clueless.” The people walking in darkness haven’t a clue what they are missing by rejecting or ignoring the gift of spiritual illumination that comes by following and looking into the face of the Son of God. Remember the answer our Lord gave to Philip when He was asked, “‘Show us the Father and we will be satisfied’? ‘Philip,’ He said, ‘Have I been so long with you…The Father is in Me and I in Him. If you see Me, you have seen the Father.’” (John 14:8)

How often we Orthodox Christians are asked to explain our veneration for the icons. We start with the icon of our Lord Jesus, because He is the Son of God. When we venerate His image we are not kissing an idol, as forbidden by the commandment of Moses, but God Himself. We see in His face the face of God, and we anticipate the overwhelming privilege of meeting His eyes with our own for all eternity. We accept His invitation: “Follow Me!” and we spend our lives on earth doing so, walking behind Him. But at that great banquet feast in the Father’s Kingdom we shall forever gaze into His eyes. That’s all the definition of bliss we need.

We are promised that in the Kingdom of heaven we shall see God face to face. We will look on His countenance. “In Thy light shall we see light.” Even on earth light is energy. All that exists is energy, therefore, it is light. Only the darkness is without energy. That is why St. Paul warns us not to take part in what goes on in darkness, because it will not bear fruit for our salvation. “It is a disgrace even to mention the things they do in darkness” (Ephesians 5:12). All that will be exposed when Christ returns to redeem those who are chosen to live with Him in all eternity. All those whose lives are meaningful, bearing fruit worthy of their time on earth, will be richly rewarded in the Kingdom. They manifest and radiate spiritual light. Look with the eyes of the Spirit and you can perceive the aura of light emanating from them already. They are children of light. They are like the moon reflecting the rays of the sun. Fr. Paul Florensky writes about this in his book, Iconostasis.