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Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house

May 4, 2014

When it comes to the most basic activities of daily life, no one needs to give us instructions about what tools are for or how to use them. Without thinking, we use utensils for eating. Without a moment’s thought, we turn on a light switch in a dark room. Without the least bit of reflection, we make sure the light shines on what we may be reading.  And yet, when it comes to the life of the Spirit, we seem to need additional instructions, we seem to need to be told to do the obvious. As foolish as it may seem, we really need to be reminded that no one lights a candle and puts it under a bushel, because we might be ashamed to speak before others or worry about what others will say when we speak openly about The Lord Jesus. In psychological terms, the ability to take a skill and use it in another situation is known as generalization. It’s something we do nearly instinctively from childhood on. The saints never tired of turning to this process in order to set believers on the path that leads to light and life. Thus, Saint Seraphim of Sarov would use the example of merchants, so that people would trade wisely in matters of the spirit. Thus, Saint John Chrysostom would talk about the Christian life as the work of a captain trying to direct his ship to port. And thus, the Teacher of all teachers, the Lord of all Lords, the the perfect Wisdom of God and man, would turn to such examples, so that Christians might become as He was a light shining for enlightenment and salvation.

In last Sunday’s post, I wrote about Christ’s words in which He proclaimed that His disciples were the light of the world, because they had been enlightened by the abundant life, the unfathomable love, and uncreated light of the Savior of their souls. Now, the same Lord instructs them concerning the purpose of that light that they received through a simple, yet powerful metaphor: a candle and a bushel. Just imagine the effect of a candle lit after nightfall in a darkened village without a single ray of light and then placed on a candle stand. Wouldn’t the villagers move towards the beckoning light that enables those formerly in darkness to see? And wouldn’t it be foolish, selfish, and somehow sad to put it under a bushel. And so, the light of Christ is to be put on a candle stand. The light of Christ, however, does more then beckon and illumine. It transforms and transfigures the person who truly sees it. It is a light that makes the presence of God transparent, that enables believers to feel the life of Christ coursing through their veins, and that makes grateful love warm every thought in the heart as the noonday sun warms all of creation.

Saint Porphyrios is a shining example of a someone who received the light of Christ and did not put it under a bushel, but let it shine with childlike simplicity and Godlike power. In a tape-recorded conversation in July 1988, the Saint said, “With Christ it’s like that. One is not downcast, has no sadness, no internalizing of problems, which man thinks about or is tormented by the different idle thoughts and afflictions, that have wounded him from time to time in his life. Christ is new life. How can I say it? Christ is everything. He is joy; He is life; He is light. He is the true light who makes man joyful, makes him soar with happiness; makes him see everything, everybody; makes him feel for everyone, to want everyone with him, everyone with Christ. When we find some treasure or whatever else, we don’t want to tell anybody. The Christian, on the other hand, when he finds Christ, when he knows Christ, when Christ dwells within his own little soul and he feels Him, he wants to shout and tell it everywhere; he wants to talk about Christ, to say what Christ is, he wants to say- love Christ and put nothing before His Love. Christ is Everything, He is the source of life, the ultimate desire, He is everything. Everything beautiful is in Christ. And afar from Christ: sadness, sorrow, worry, nervous tension, recollections of life’s wounds, its pressures, its anxieties. When we are far away from Christ, we live through all these things. We wander around, going from here to there, for nothing, we stand still nowhere. Wherever we find Christ, even if it is in a cave, we stay there and are afraid to leave, afraid of losing Christ. Read about it and see. Ascetics, who knew Christ, didn’t want to leave their caves, not even for a little fresh air. They wanted to be there, where they felt Christ was with them. Christ is Everything. Christ is the fountain of life, of joy. He is Everything.”

This is the natural, spontaneous, joyful response of someone who has been illumined by the light of Christ. The natural response is to shine, so that others can see what they see and rejoice in the beauty of vision that makes us beautiful as well. It’s not about morality or moral superiority, it’s about finding a treasure that can be shared without ever being diminished, even as light can be shared by passing from one candle to the next until a crowd of people become like a cluster of stars shining in the heavens. Those who have been illumined by the light of Christ desire to share their treasure. They want to share Christ because of their overflowing, abundant joy which they have experienced. They have experienced in a real way that Christ is everything and that in comparison nothing else compares.

This light doesn’t compel by condemning the worst in us, but rather it attracts by virtue of the very best in us. And so it is with the spiritual life. The Lord Christ doesn’t compel us to love Him. He loves us unreservedly, wholeheartedly, and joyfully from the very foundation of the world. Like a candle on a candle stand, He beckons gently inviting us to receive the Light of life. If we receive that Light, our lives are forever changed. We become light-bearers and likewise beckon others. We become Christ-bearers and offer Christ to others. And we recognize the veracity of the Elder’s words-Christ is everything, there is nothing else. Christ is indeed all and is in all. (Col 3:11)

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