The call of every Christian is to Be Light, to Give Light, and finally Live Light
A popular song written years ago touched the hearts of many who listened to the words of its refrain “…And you light up my life, You give me hope to carry on You light up my days and fill my nights with song.”
Even though this is a popular love song, what better words could be said by Christ’s Love for us.. to bring us His Light and ignite us with faith.
In the Armenian Church, on February 14 with the conclusion of the Christmas cycle, we celebrate Jesus Christ the Light of the World – with the Feast called in Armenian Diarrnuntarrach – The Presentation of Our Lord to the Temple. With words of prayer, melodious hymns the sacred art of Illuminated miniature icons our minds, ears and eyes see this Divine event in the life of Jesus Himself the Light of the World- who gives us hope and transform us.
The depiction of the story from the Gospel of St. Luke about the infant Christ child portrays the Holy Family presenting Him for the purification rite with the Jewish ceremony of the redemption of the firstborn. But it also displays the fulfillment of a prayer from an elder man, a prayer to see the Messiah before his death.
Look at the radiating the Light of God held in the loving arms of his Mother the Virgin Mary as He is presented to Simeon the high priest of the Temple. The arrangement of figures in this scene displays their act of gratitude. This is an important message about God’s Light in Jesus. It can be in us when we follow Him and become people and agents of the Christ, like light to shine forever on earth through us in living a God-pleasing life.
Yet, to be Christ’s Light can be difficult; especially in this dark, sinful world where Satan and the shadows he casts upon us, smother goodness; hiding and shielding from our eyes, souls, minds and hearts the Light of Divine Love, Goodness, and Salvation. Looking at this Good News painted in this graphic image we can see that in spite of the darkness, Christ IS and very much remains aglow for us if we like Saint Simeon reach out for Him and accept Him into our whole being.
We see Saint Mary holding the infant, and her husband, St. Joseph presenting two turtle doves as an offering of thanksgiving to God. The humble gestures and their faces express their great gratitude for the gift of His life. They are standing at the entrance of the Temple building with its curtain open to let Jesus enter. For with Him nothing is concealed rather everything is revealed.
St. Simeon, the righteous man, with outstretched arms filled with joy – and for his whole life -waited to behold Christ, the Messiah. Suddenly like a flash of light, Christ appears before him and fills his heart with Hope, that the Holy Light which has come into the world will save him and all humankind from eternal death. St. Simeon is ready to depart and be with God in the Eternal and Heavenly Kingdom praying …
“Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation, a Light to lighten the Gentiles, the Glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-31)
Simeon’s reaching for the Light of God is parallel to the Light from the Christmas Star that shined in the dark sky, and which led the Three Wise Men on their journey, to find the incarnate God. Their journey reached its end, and with his reaching similarly, Saint Simeon found the True Light who gives light to every man. (cf. John 1:9)
What Saint Simeon saw, we can also see. What he reached for, is ours to take. What he received, is our guarantee that when we live in righteousness, as Christ calls us to, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Salvation can be ours.
So every story, every prayer and every sacred image has a lesson to teach. In this illuminated icon St. Simeon shows us that God is always within reach and His Light is ours when we endeavor to receive Him. As we ponder the great power of the little 40 day old infant Jesus – the King of Glory God’s Light, we are filled with Hope for In Him [Christ Jesus] was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1
Today Jesus is asking us all, will you draw open the veil covering your heart and open your arms to carry my Light to the world? “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be His own out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 14:2)
We are called to not only follow the Light but Reach for Light, and in so doing Become His Light, to Give His Light, and finally Live His Light, presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice, denying ourselves of thoughts, emotions and desires that are contrary to God, and be led by His Spirit to obey God’s will ; doing what Our Heavenly Father has asked us to do.
There is a tradition many parishes observe on Feast of the Presentation of Christ to the Temple. At the conclusion of worship, a lighted candle is given to each worshipper to carry home as a remembrance of Christ who is The Light of all Light.
What a blessing this is, for us as Christians, to be His Light that shines in the dark, a powerful glow on earth where no darkness nor evil can subdue the Love of God. As Sons and Daughters of Light we are graced with the power of faith and power of good that can change the world.