by Paul Murray
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend [overcome] it,” (John 1:1-5).
This is the beginning of the Gospel account of St. John, in which he beautifully and poetically retells the story of creation. His readers knew the story so well, but here he shows that Jesus was there from the very beginning. So much can be said on these five verses, so we can only scratch the surface in this brief blog post. The whole thing can be summarized like this: Jesus is God, and He always existed and was involved with creation. He created everything, including all life, meaning the life that He gives shines throughout the world as light. OCF’s theme for this year centers around verse 5, “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it,” so we will dig in deeper to what this means.
What is the darkness?
Do we see darkness around us? Just yesterday as I was getting a haircut, my barber, knowing that I am in seminary, asked about what I thought about everything going on in the world. He said, “At my age, having seen what I’ve seen, I had hoped things would be better by this point.” We don’t have to look very far to see the darkness in the world. We see so much pain and destruction, so much needless suffering, so much hatred, such clear failure of empathy, so many people crying out in distress yet so few ears open to hear their cries. How do we battle such monstrous darkness?
Light in darkness
St. Porphyrios has a simple answer, as he does to most complex issues. “Don’t fight to expel darkness from the chamber of your soul. Open a tiny aperture for the light to enter, and the darkness will disappear.” Think of this along with John 1:5: “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” What darkness can overpower light? Light always wins out over darkness; there is simply no other way for things to be. If there is darkness, light is not present, and if there is light, there cannot be darkness.
So what do I do?
“You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). This is what Christ tells His disciples, in whose footsteps we now follow. If Christ is the true light (John 1:4) and we are the light of the world, that means that we, the Church, are called to be the presence of Christ in this world. We are battling darkness, and He is the light; what chance do we have in our battle without Him? How could we eliminate darkness without light?
Okay, but really, what do I do?
First, we pray. Prayer opens us up to dialogue with God. We need to pray every morning and every evening, as we are able. It can be 30 seconds or 30 minutes (or beyond), but it needs to be something to be the foundation of our day. And we can also find moments for prayer or stillness throughout the day; one of my favorites is walking back to the dorm from the library at night. Everything is so still, the work for the day is done (or at least, more done than it used to be), and there is so much around me to be thankful for.
Second, we show love and kindness to all who we meet. We can try to do this without prayer and trust in God, but we will find ourselves constantly falling short until we are united with Him. We are called to be first of all kind and loving to our friends and the people close to us, and then to extend out from there. Christ makes clear from His account of the last judgment in Matthew 25 that our priority are the poor, the hungry, and the needy in any way. We may see people struggling with various things on our campuses, and many of them may not have people to help them, or even people to talk to them and share in their struggle for a few seconds. We are called to be the light in their darkness by simply being with them; no more, no less.
Here’s the main message, my friends. Being the light in the darkness means we must be connected to God and strength from Him, which comes from prayer (especially thanksgiving), reading scripture, and spending time in stillness. Having this foundation, we extend that same love that He shows to us constantly to everyone around us, especially when it is hard. In this way, we battle the darkness, not by futile means that we contrive of ourselves, but by allowing the Light to enter into our situation, so that the darkness is simply no more. If we focus on the darkness that is still out there, we will become dejected and give up. But if we focus on who we are called to be—God’s presence in our communities, most especially to the person in front of us at any given moment—then we can call upon the Holy Spirit to strengthen us and work through us to spread light to our communities around us.
Hi! I’m a third-year seminarian at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA. I have a Bachelor of Arts in psychology with a minor in Spanish, and am working towards my Master of Divinity. When I am not writing blog articles for OCF, I canusually be found working on some project for school or something else, practicing chanting,refining my Super Smash Bros game with other HCHC students, or throwing a Frisbee at people to try to get someone to play catch with me.