Tag Archives: light

The Holy Night Ablaze with the Light of the Resurrection


When I returned home after the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night, the images of hundreds of little candles lit from the newly blessed Paschal Candle continued to dance and flicker in my imagination as the words of the Exultet echoed in my mind:

May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets.
Christ your Son
who coming back from death’s domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity.

The image of light was so striking in my mind during that Holy Night when the parish church was ablaze with the splendor of the Light of Christ shining as it joined the Lucernaria blazing around the world. Torches blazed, at midnight bells rang in Jerusalem at the very site of our Lord’s resurrection, in the church of the Holy Sepulcher the new fire was brought forth and borne through the streets of Bethlehem.

God has shed the peaceful light of his mercy on humanity through his Son the Morning Star.  This is a lovely allusion to the Biblical text in II Peter 2:19.  “And we have the more firm prophetic word: whereunto you do well to attend, as to a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” Jesus come back from the dead and brought forward to life in the Spirit is given the title in the Apocalypse of Saint John “stella splendida et matutina”, the bright and morning star (Rev. 22:16). Christ is that Morning Star through whom God has shed his merciful light upon all humanity. The Paschal Candle blessed during the Holy Night that stands at the head of our assembly during the 50 days of Easter testifies that Jesus is the Light of the world.

This light, this new fire of the Holy Night of Easter Vigil is orienting us to the fire of the Holy Spirit that on the day of Pentecost descended, as if in tongues of flame, on the apostles, and liberated them from fear in order to be bold in their proclamation of the gospel of the resurrection. We will join the apostles at Pentecost, the conclusion of 50 days of Paschaltide; we too have been enlivened by the very fire of the love of God himself.

The Lights of Advent

On Friday evening I was invited to attend the Williams School service of Lessons and Carols in Christ and Saint Luke Church. When I arrived at the school, all the students were lining up with the lanterns and candles forming a procession to the church. On the way to the school, I noticed churches announcing candlelight Christmas Eve services as well as so many candles in the windows of homes with Christmas trees, with lights shining in the darkness of the streets.

This scene gave me pause to ponder why candlelight always attracts us. My thoughts turned to the chant “O come, O come, Emmanuel” that the Roman Church has been chanting for almost 1200 years during the season of Advent. This chant holds a treasure trove of biblical imagery drawing from the Messianic hopes of the prophets of ancient Israel.

The Antiphon that came to mind as I meditated on all the illumination piercing the darkness of the night was this antiphon:

O radiant dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of Justice,
Come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

On this fourth Sunday of Advent, the church praises God with these words:

O heavens let the just one come forth like the dew,
let him descend from the clouds like the rain.
The earth will open up and give birth to the Savior.

This wonderful Introit is inspired from the prophetic text of Isaiah. The dew that comes down from above is the eternal Word who takes upon himself our humanity, our earthliness, and comes forth from the Virgin Mary who gives birth to the Incarnate eternal Word of God.

When I saw the students at Williams School processing to Christ and Saint Luke with lanterns and candles it reminded me of the Rorate Mass. This is another ancient liturgical tradition that is practiced in Austria, Germany, Hungary, and in Poland, and I have noticed of late in Washington, DC and New York and other cities, a pre-dawn mass called Rorate, the word being drawn from the Introit on the fourth Sunday. People come to church early in the morning before the sun rises, with lanterns and candles to celebrate Mass by candlelight in honor of the Virgin Mary. As Mass proceeds and the sun rises the church becomes progressively brighter and illuminated by the sun, as our faith is illuminated by Christ; which evokes that beautiful antiphon again:

O radiant light, splendor of eternal day.

During these final days of Advent, take some time to walk through the neighborhood in the cold of the night marveling at all the lights dispelling the darkness. Each light is proclaiming that the  gospel “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal life” has come into the world, the Word made flesh and dwelt among us.

A boy with a lantern. Nuremberg, December 2014.

Reflection: Solar Iconography

Walking day in and day out for hours on end a Pilgrim experiences the intensity of the sun. It is so strong that a Pilgrim must keep drinking water to avoid dehydration, and applying sunscreen, which offers protection. However when I walked into the cathedral at Leon all of a sudden the sun took on a mystical dimension. The cathedral is built on an east-west orientation with the altar at the eastern apse so priest and people alike face the Risen Lord at the celebration of the Mass. They literally pray ad orientem facing the rising sun. The sun draws the whole universe in the praise of God who dwells in Inaccessible Light. Therefore the light from the sun is the closest things to the Celestial Jerusalem where God lives in inaccessible light, hidden from human eyes. As the day moves forward the sun then illuminates the southern wall of the nave with the warm colors of the saints and doctors of the church. The light from the southern side figures illuminates the north wall of the nave where the prophets are depicted with dark blues because the prophets did not experience the Light but advanced towards the Light because their prophecies held the mystery of Christ the Light revealed in these last days in the mystery of the Incarnation. Each morning as we start our walk in the darkness we anticipated the beauty of the eastern skies. Lumen Christi! Light of Christ! Deo Gratias

The Holy Night Ablaze with the Light of the Resurrection

When I returned home after the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night, the images of hundreds of little candles lit from the newly blessed Paschal Candle continued to dance and flicker in my imagination as the words of the Exultet echoed in my mind:

May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets.
Christ your Son
who coming back from death’s domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity.

The image of light was so striking in my mind during that Holy Night when the parish church was ablaze with the splendor of the Light of Christ shining as it joined the Lucernaria blazing around the world. Torches blazed, at midnight bells rang in Jerusalem at the very site of our Lord’s resurrection, in the church of the Holy Sepulcher the new fire was brought forth and borne through the streets of Bethlehem.

God has shed the peaceful light of his mercy on humanity through his Son the Morning Star.  This is a lovely allusion to the Biblical text in II Peter 2:19.  “And we have the more firm prophetic word: whereunto you do well to attend, as to a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” Jesus come back from the dead and brought forward to life in the Spirit is given the title in the Apocalypse of Saint John “stella splendida et matutina”, the bright and morning star (Rev. 22:16). Christ is that Morning Star through whom God has shed his merciful light upon all humanity. The Paschal Candle blessed during the Holy Night that stands at the head of our assembly during the 50 days of Easter testifies that Jesus is the Light of the world.

This light, this new fire of the Holy Night of Easter Vigil is orienting us to the fire of the Holy Spirit that on the day of Pentecost descended, as if in tongues of flame, on the apostles, and liberated them from fear in order to be bold in their proclamation of the gospel of the resurrection. We will join the apostles at Pentecost, the conclusion of 50 days of Paschaltide; we too have been enlivened by the very fire of the love of God himself.