Protopresbyter Georgios Dorbarakis
‘Because the Lord has prepared it to be his throne and dwelling-place, the soul which has been granted spiritual union with the light of Christ and has been illumined by the moral beauty of his inexpressible glory completely becomes light, completely becomes a persona*, completely becomes an eye. There is no part of such a soul that is not filled with the spiritual eyes of the light; there is, that is to say, no part of the soul that is dark. Because it has completely become light and spirit and because it is filled with eyes, there is no part of the soul that can be characterized as below or behind, but rather it is a persona from all sides, since the inexpressible moral beauty of the glory of the light of Christ has come and sits upon it’ (Saint Makarios the Egyptian, Discourse 1).
Christ is not the only light of the world, as he himself revealed. Everyone becomes a secondary light when they’re united with its source, the Lord Jesus Christ. He said this in so many words: ‘I am the light of the world. Those who follow me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life’. In other words, do you follow the Light? You yourself then become light, which you feel in your being as life itself. And things cannot be otherwise, since Light and Life are one and the same thing, as the Lord himself said: ‘I am the way, truth and life’. ‘I am Life and the Resurrection’. So, from the moment when the Lord came into the world as a human person ‘everything has been filled with light: the heavens, the earth and the nether world’. Christ is all light- the light of the three suns of the uncreated Trinity: the Father is light, the Son is light and the Holy Spirit is light.
And it should be understood that this light of Christ, which also becomes light in people and shines throughout creation, is his uncreated energy, the energy of the whole Triune God in fact, since the energy is common to the Deity. It’s called light and glory and life, which means that ‘heaven and earth are filled with his glory’, in the words of the Prophet Isaiah. This is not to say that there’s confusion of energy with the nature or essence of God; there’s no pantheism in the Christian faith. Therefore, ‘we live, act and are in Christ our God’. His presence in all places embraces everyone and everything, conferring on them life and his love- light and life and whatever else doesn’t exist except through God. Without him, everything is non-existent, literally zero. ‘Without me you can do nothing’. ‘For with you is the source of light; in your light we shall see light’.
We should also be clear that, when Saint Makarios talks about the light of Christ which people receive, he doesn’t mean that energy of God which is given to every person who enters the world, as Saint John the Theologian says: ‘Christ is the true light who illumines everyone who comes into the world’. Certainly, everyone who comes into the world is ‘stamped’ by Christ the Creator, since they’ve come into existence. The light Saint Makarios talks about is the real light of Christ which reflects our creation in his image and likeness. After the fall, however, this has to increase drastically, through faith in Christ, if it is to become the saving light of our existence. In other words, it’s true that every person has the light of Christ, because there’s no life without him, but this isn’t the light of his deifying energy, which enables us to have a real, vibrant relationship with him. If we are to have this saving light, we must have faith in him and enter his body through baptism and the life of the Church in general. So Christians can see the face of God and be illumined by the ‘moral beauty of his inexpressible glory’ only as members of Christ.
Christ, then, is the light, and every conscious Christian is a secondary light, if, in their existence, their soul and body, they experience this light in such a way that they become ‘completely persona, completely eyes’, with no darkness within them, in the words of Saint Makarios. It’s self-evident that the great saint was referring to ‘perfect’ Christians, to those who, through long practice of spiritual asceticism have reached the point where they are as fully cleansed spiritually as is humanly possible. These are people who experience that which the Lord commended: ‘Blessed are they who are pure in heart, for they shall see God’. How does the saint say it in his own way? Believers become enlightened when ‘they have prepared their soul to be Christ’s throne and dwelling-place’. Preparation, as purification of the soul from every stain which impedes the reflection of Christ’s light, is the struggle to observe his holy commandments. The more we orientate ourselves and turn our existence to the word of Christ by practicing it, the more we also cleanse the mirror of our soul so that the light and glory of its Lord can shine therein.
From this point of view, all the psychological and other problems we have simply disappear. Because all of them have as their source the darkness of the soul, because of the fact that passions exist and work away within it. Lack of Christ’s light in us is the cause of all our malfunctions, which is why there’s no other way forward for us except a turn towards Christ, if we wish to gain our spiritual health and complete rehabilitation. This happens gradually, however, to the extent that the faithful observe God’s will in their life, as we’ve said. And we’re grateful to Saint Makarios because, through his inspired words, he’s pointed out what perfection means: our lambent existence in Christ; eyes filled with the light and spirit of Christ; a Christian as another Christ in the world.
* ‘Persona’ here is used in the technical, theological sense, that is the embodiment or manifestation of a hypostasis. In general terms, a hypostasis is a mode of being and a persona (Greek ‘prosopon’) is the concrete form it takes.