By Maria Covarrubias
Recently on one of my trips, I gazed over the magazine provided by the airline. The cover page was about the meaning of light. Inside I found an article from an astronaut describing how sunrise and sunset are viewed from the space station. She describes,
“Imagine orbital night: you are looking out the bay window, down at the dark world, when you are over an unpopulated area like the ocean, which is the most of the planet, you are looking at nothingness- no lights, no stars, a hole in space. Suddenly you see a clear silver line, Earth’s thin atmosphere, tracking the horizon. It quickly changes to hue, from silver to blue to coral orange to yellow to a fiery orange red. At the same time, you glimpsed the station’s giant solar arrays glowing like the filaments in your toaster, hearkening the sun’s rise. And then that blinding gold ball emerges, painting the black planet in washes of white, green, and the bluest blue you’ve ever seen. By the time your heart catches up, you wish there was a way to freeze the time. Ninety minutes later the whole thing reverses- the terminator line creeps back, swallowing the Earth and all its color, the bright orb shrinking to a dot and then disappearing, leaving you, once again, dangling above the abyss. Now when I see a sunset or sunrise down here on Earth, I feel an intense longing. But I also take comfort in knowing there is always something more beautiful beyond what we can see. It gives me hope.”
This beautiful description made me think of the meaning of light as a life-giving force, a universal source of meaning and a wellspring of beauty. It also made me think of Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. In this celebration, the Church expresses the significance of Easter principally through three symbols: light, water, and the new song of the Alleluia.
The celebration of the Easter Vigil begins at dawn with the church in darkness. The lit Easter Candle representing the risen Christ processes in the church in the midst of the faithful who hold candles also lit from the Easter Candle. This entire church is lighted with this new light. The biblical narratives for that night taken from Genesis about God’s creation begin with the command: “Let there be light!” (Gen 1:3). In our experience, we know that where there is light, life is born and chaos is transformed. Light gives us security and comfort.
Pope Benedict XVI in his homily on Easter 2009 explained, “The resurrection of Jesus is an eruption of light where death is conquered, the tomb is thrown open. The Risen One, Himself, is Light, the Light of the world. Beginning with the Resurrection, God’s light spreads throughout the world and throughout history. This Light alone – Jesus Christ – is the true light, something more than the physical phenomenon of light. He is pure Light: God himself, who causes a new creation to be born in the midst of the old, transforming chaos into cosmos. Light is the most immediate image of God: He is total Radiance, Life, Truth, and Light.
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying. “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12)
The Lord is my light and my salvation (Psalm 27)! Alleluia, Alleluia!
Maria G. Covarrubias is the Director of Catechetical Ministry for the Diocese of San Bernardino.