Jesus Is Truly Risen! Alleluia!
On Holy Saturday at sundown the priest blesses a newly kindled fire. Then the deacon (or the priest), carries the three-branched candle, burning with the new fire, up the aisle of the church to the sanctuary, singing three times: “Lumen Christi” – “The Light of Christ”. The Paschal Candle is lit from the new fire, and the deacon sings the Exsultet, to celebrate the light symbolizing the Risen Christ, the Light of the world.
What does it mean – Christ, the Light of the world? St. John explains: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness; and the darkness grasped it not… It was the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world” (Jn.1:4,5,9).
“And the message we have heard from him and announce to you is this,” says St. John, “that God is light, and in Him is no darkness. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie, and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as He also is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1Jn.1:5-7).
The Light of Christ separates the children of light from those who are still in the darkness of sin and unbelief:
“He who believes in Him is not judged; but he who does not believe is already judged, because he does not believe in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. Now this is the judgment: The light has come into the world, yet men have loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, that his deeds may not be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light that his deeds may be made manifest, for they have been performed in God” (Jn.3:18-21).
Is it really necessary to believe in the Light, Jesus Christ? Are we not all on our way to Heaven whether Catholic or Protestant, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, or even atheist – and that whether we want it or not? Are not all religions from the same source, all authentic, all leading to salvation?
It has been said that the United States is no longer a Christian nation. Oh Yes! We have Jews, and Muslims and many others. This, it would seem, is what it should be – the equality of all religions. But it’s a strange “Christian” who does not see that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World and King of all Nations, and that He has given His Church the authority to preach the Gospel to every creature, baptizing them “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. How can we betray Our Lord by pretending that all religions should be equal? If Jesus Christ died upon the Cross to save us from an eternity in Hell, how can we not preach His Gospel to the nations? As St. Paul says, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1Cor.9:16).
Moses prophesied the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, and is quoted by St. Peter in Acts: “The Lord your God shall raise up to you a prophet from among your brethren, as he raised up me; to him you shall harken in all things that he shall speak to you. And it shall be that every soul that will not harken to that prophet (Jesus), shall be destroyed from among the people” (Acts3:22,23).
Moses knew, Peter knew, the True Church knows – that “there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts4:12). This is the truth. And it is the truth that makes us free – free from the error of sin and heresy. To have the truth and be free from error is to be able to judge correctly about one’s path, as the Lord says: “I am the light of the world. He who follows me does not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn.8:12b, 13).
The devil has many agents, false teachers who claim to guide people to success, prosperity and happiness in this world, but who are themselves deceived and on their way to Hell. There are libraries filled with books that claim to have the right message, or “the secret”, or the right rituals and incantations to conjure up the right “spirit guides”. There are gurus that will “open the right doors for you” with their books and TV programs dangerous to the soul. There are false religions that promise salvation here and now, without your having to repent of your sins. There is no sin, there is no judgment, there is no Hell! But this is not what we have learned from Christ, our Light. St. Paul attests:
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk, then, as children of light (for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and justice and truth), testing what is well pleasing to God; and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For of the things that are done by them in secret it is shameful even to speak; but all the things that are exposed are made manifest by the light: for all that is made manifest is light. Thus it says, ‘Awake, sleeper, and arise from among the dead, and Christ will enlighten thee.’” (Eph.5:8-14).
And so at Easter we sing the great Exsultet:
“Let the angelic choirs of heaven now rejoice; let the divine mysteries be celebrated with joy; and let the trumpet of salvation resound for the victory of so great a King. Let the earth also rejoice, illumined with such resplendent rays; and enlightened with the brightness of the eternal King. Let it feel that the darkness of the whole world is dispersed…
“We beseech Thee, therefore, O Lord, that this candle, consecrated in honor of Thy name, may continue to burn to dissipate the darkness of this night. And being accepted as a sweet savor, may it be mixed with the lights of heaven. May the morning star find its flame alive; that star which knows no setting, that star which returning from hell, shone serenely upon mankind.”