A HOMILY FOR THE SUNDAY AFTER ILLUMINATION

 

About the Light of the Sun of Righteousness, and About Repentance

 

       

Brothers and sisters!

 

        Each of us has seen, or can easily imagine, that wonderful moment in the early morning when the golden sun appears on the horizon in the countryside and gilds the surface of the earth, painting trees and hills with its rays.  At that moment one can breathe freely, and every living thing is awakening from sleep -- rising, as it were, from the dead.  Insects, birds, and animals begin to make their distinctive sounds, for every breath praises the Lord[1] when the earth covers itself with light as with a garment.[2] 

        In today’s Gospel lection, we heard about something similar, but far more significant:  about when, in Galilee of the Gentiles -- that land where Jew, Syrian, and Greek lived side by side -- the King of kings and Sun of righteousness, Christ our God, appeared to the world and began His public ministry following His Baptism.  The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, it says, because in olden times those tribes lived there, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.  These words were first spoken by Isaiah centuries before, as were those that follow:  The people which sat in darkness saw great light:  and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.

        In truth, before Christ’s appearance, the people of every nation on earth were stumbling about in the darkness of ignorance and were fettered slaves of sin.  But when the glow of the Gospel shone on the horizon and then the blazing celestial Luminary appeared, many turned to Christ, the Sun of righteousness, as plants turn to light, warmth, and water.  Christ’s holy teaching dispelled the gloom of ignorance, and His faithful were illumined by His divine effulgence.  His compassion warmed the suffering and came to the aid of the heavy laden; His grace nourished the hungry and opened to all the Kingdom of glory.

        From that time until the present, two thousand years later, some walk steadily in the light, while others, going from bad to worse, plunge ever deeper into the darkness, for it is easier to fall than to raise oneself up.  Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil,[3] it says; so the devil, the father of lies and darkness, has spread his nets everywhere.  When he lures men into them and snares them, he drags them off into the land and shadow of death.[4] 

        And so, dear Christians, let us ask ourselves:  Are we basking in the light of Christ, and is that light the light of our lives?  It was to pose this question to us, and not simply to give us a history lesson about events -- however important -- of two thousand years ago, that our Holy Church ordained that this Gospel lection be read today, on the Sunday After Illumination.  She desires that we turn our attention to our inmost self, to our soul, and to determine whether the light of Christ is shining brightly in it:  the light of living, ardent love for Christ; the light of warm devotion to Him and trust in Him.  If, when we have made such an investigation, when we have conducted such a self-examination, we find that the light of Christ is not illumining our soul in this way, then we must turn all our attention to attaining the enlightenment of our soul, our mind, our heart, our whole being.  For whosoever is not basking in the light of Christ the Sun of righteousness, whose soul is not illumined by that light, is surely in darkness and is dwelling in the land and shadow of death.  He is spiritually asleep, spiritually moribund and, if he does not rise up and proceed with haste to the light, will perish for all eternity in darkness because, as the holy chief Apostle Peter said, there is none other name under heaven whereby we must be saved,[5] besides the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,[6] Who is the light of the world.[7] Besides the light of Christ, there is no other light that can truly illumine our souls.

        And so, beloved Christians, let us all fervently embrace holy repentance, for it is by fervent, continual repentance that the soul and the whole man is ushered into the light of Christ.  It is not I, but the Lord Himself in today’s Gospel Who urges us to this.  From that time, it is written, Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent:  for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.  You see how essential repentance is:  so essential, that Christ called His hearers to it, before requiring of them anything else at all.  In truth, without repentance, we cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven; we cannot even call ourselves Christians.  To lead a life without sincere, profound repentance is little more than suicide, because the unrepentant person is easily trapped in the nets of the evil one and makes himself food for the devil.  He is a stranger to spiritual tranquility, to blessed repose in Christ.  His passions drag him about by the nose, and he is at the edge of the precipice, and is just about to tumble over into the abyss.

        Brothers and sisters, let us repent; let us repent, so that Christ, the Sun of righteousness, may shine upon our hearts, and so that we may begin to lead the life of His Kingdom in our innermost being.  Let us repent without ceasing, day and night, before the God Who knows our every thought and feeling.  We sin constantly, so may our repentance be constant also.  Amen.

 

       

 

[1] Ps. 150:5

[2] Ps. 103:2

[3] John 3:19

[4] Matt. 4:16

[5] Acts 4:12

[6] Acts 4:10

[7] John 8:12; 9:5