The Light of the World

Annually in the Orthodox Church there are commemorations of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. There were seven of them. This Sunday, July 14, 2019, I served as a substitute priest at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Bellingham, Washington for Fr. Michael Tervo. The Greek Orthodox Church focused on the Fourth Council — the Council of Chalcedon — and its Definition of Chalcedon, as penned by Pope Leo the Great. The key statement of this Council involved the hypostatic union — that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human. These two natures (divine and human) exist in the one Person of Jesus Christ in an indissoluble union. These two natures, while in union, are, at the same time, never in confusion. This definition is in response to the false teaching of Nestorius. This heretical bishop essentially made Jesus into two separate persons: one divine and one human. There could be no union of the two natures in his mind. Nestorius tried to give the Church a Christ with a multiple personality disorder. His view was rightly rejected and judged as heresy. Jesus is NOT an “either-or,” he is a “both-this-and-that.”

The gospel reading put forward by the Greek Archdiocese comes from Mt 5:14 – 19. Verse 14 grabbed my attention which quotes Jesus: “You are the light of the world…” Elsewhere, in St. John’s gospel, Jesus declares, “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8: 12). Both statements from the Scriptures are true. It is not an either-or proposition, it is “both-this-and-that.”

Our salvation is one of relational union with our Savior: we are in Christ, and Christ is in us. Thus, as he is, we are to be. In this union (which also has its own distinction) both Christ and his disciples are the light of the world. As he is, we are to be. Let’s read more from St. Matthew’s gospel:

You are the light of the world. A city placed upon a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and places it under a basket, but upon a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. Thus, let your light shine before men, in order that they might see your good works and glorify your Father who is in the heavens.

Jesus did the works of the Father, and God was glorified. The same is to be true for us, for we have union with Christ.

Again, Nestorius denied the union of God and man in the one Person of Christ. We cannot not make an analogous denial! We are to be one person where Christ is in us, working and moving in, through, and by this relational union. We are to be one person in union with Christ from whom his light shines forth to illuminate this darkened world. If we live as two people, one sometimes following Christ and at other times not following Christ, then we live as liars, and we are private Nestorians.

I turn to the Eucharist, where the Body and Blood of Christ exist in an indissoluble union with bread and wine. When we consume, by faith, his Body and Blood we enter, once more, into union with our Lord. “The one eating my flesh and drinking my blood abides in me and I in him” (John 6: 56).

We are to be urged to come mindfully forward to receive Jesus’ Body and Blood. We are to come with prayerful intention that the light of Christ may more perfectly dwell in us in true and full union. Why? That we may shine forth the light of Christ!

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus

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