Sunday after the Feast of Theophany

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Light shining in the Darkness
Sunday after the Feast of Theophany
10 January, 2010
Ephesians 4:7-13 ; Matthew 4:12-17


[This audio file has been edited since audio and written styles are not the same but very different ways of communication.]

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Today, our Saviour is withdrawing into Galilee. We are reminded that this withdrawing into Galilee is connected with the fulfilment of a prophecy : “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:1). This part of Galilee is a part of northern Israel around Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee) where a large number of Gentiles were living, hence its being called Galilee of the Gentiles (as we just heard). This was certainly the case in the time when Jesus was growing up in Nazareth (a town in Galilee). There were many of the occupying Roman army in that area at that time. They were building cities in that area. Thus, it is not for nothing that the Sea of Galilee became known as Lake Tiberias, because of the Roman army and the Roman occupation. In one of the foot-notes that I read, it was said that, in all likelihood, the Jews in this part of Galilee were very much influenced by the pagan Romans in one way or another. It is neither here nor there whether the people were or were not influenced. The fact is that there were many non-Jews living in this area of Galilee. Indeed, the town of Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, was built in honour of the Roman Emperor Tiberius by King Herod Antipas of Galilee. This town, built over a Jewish cemetery, prohibited any Jew from living there. When our Saviour went into that region, it was He, who is the Light, who went to the people, the pagans, who were living in darkness. This means the people of the Roman army : the Latin and Greek-speaking people who were occupying this territory.

The Light, our Saviour Jesus Christ comes and shines in the darkness. So much is our Saviour identified with light, that He says of Himself that He is Light, and He is described as Light (see John 1 ; 8:12 ; 9:5 ; 12:35-36, 46). It does not matter so much whether we are strict observers of the Law, or whether we are actually blameless before the Law (one might say) – there is still darkness in us. Even in us, Orthodox Christians, there is still darkness because, in the first place, we are influenced by our own self-will. In the second place, we are influenced by the powers of darkness. This self-will and the influence of the powers of darkness are contrary to the way of the Light, to the way of Him who is the Way.

The Saviour, the Light shining in the darkness, is shining in the darkness of our lives, also. He is busy transforming us from various sorts of distortions which we actually invite in. They do not just happen to us. We invite them in because of our co-operation with the powers of darkness through our wilfulness. The Lord, the Light, is shining in our darkness. He is healing us. He is transforming us.

When our Lord is saying today : “‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’”, He is saying to us, in effect : “Turn about. Turn away from your selfishness. Turn away from your darkness. Turn away from your distortedness. Turn to the Light. Turn to the Love, away from the fear. Turn to wholeness. Turn to healing. Turn to your real self in the light of Christ”. That is our exhortation from the Saviour every day. Every day, He is saying to us, in effect : “Turn away from those dark things and come to the Light”. Every day, He is saying to us, as it were : “Let Me heal you, My brothers and sisters. Let Me restore you. Let Me give you life. Let Me take away from you the heavy burden that you carry”. This is His perpetual invitation to us. Every day, He is asking us to return to Him and to become like Him. When the Light is shining in the darkness of our lives, and when we co-operate with that Light, we progressively become more and more like that Light, who is our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters, the invitation is simple. Please let us turn about. Let us accept the Saviour’s invitation. Let us turn away from darkness, and let us turn to the Light. Let us stop putting ourselves first, and let us start putting Christ first. Let us stop putting ourselves first, and let us start putting others first. Let us stop conforming ourselves to the world, and conform ourselves instead to the one thing that matters – the love of Jesus Christ. Let us glorify Him, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.