In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up (Matt. 4:16)—thus does the apostle and evangelist Matthew, relaying the words of the holy prophet Isaiah, describe the state of different people—believers and unbelievers. The God-inspired prophet foresaw the grace-filled action of Jesus Christ’s teaching, from which the hearts of all those who hear Him with faith will be illumined with grace-filled light, and all darkness will be cast out. The land of Zebulon and the land of the Nephilim, where the Lord went after His Baptism and forty-days temptation, bordered with pagan lands, and so the Jews living there had assimilated many pagan customs and beliefs from their neighbors. With the appearance of Christ the Savior this pagan darkness was dispersed, and people saw a great light.
From this Gospel teaching an immutable truth is revealed to us: that those who do not believe in Christ are in darkness, but the believing see the light. People—of all times—who do not believe in Christ sit in darkness, are given to error and all kinds of vices. They do not know the truths that are necessary for salvation, and therefore their lives are filled with uncleanness and iniquity. They do not know the true God, they deify various soulless creatures, their own minds, their knowledge, and their own selves. They do not know man’s origin and dignity, or what his purpose is in the present or future life. They do not how to fulfill this purpose.
Not knowing or seeing what man needs for the present and future life, they live as if they did not have a rational and immortal soul; they give themselves over to vices, having a false understanding of piety. Sometimes they even justify those very vices and passions and consider them normal.
And of course, this state of a man is the true spiritual darkness and shadow of death, for the soul can be enlightened and live only through the knowledge of the true God and through coming closer to Him through faith, hope, and love.
On the contrary, the preaching of the Gospel, or the teaching of Jesus Christ, is the true light for our souls. Whoever listens with faith to the Gospel teaching will see a great light, as it says in the Scripture. The teaching of Christ reveals everything man needs to know for his salvation. It shows that man is created in the image of God, so that through a pious and virtuous life he can serve God, glorify Him, and thus be made worthy of God’s good will; and as the final goal, attain eternal salvation in the heavenly abodes.
Man sinned, brought God’s wrath on himself, and was subjected to eternal judgment, becoming incapable of knowing God and keeping His holy will. But the merciful Lord at first promised, then sent into the world His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ in order to teach people true knowledge of God and of salvation through faith in Him, the Redeemer and Savior of the world. And through His sufferings and death on the cross, which He took up for the sins of the world, He satisfied God’s judgment and made peace between us the Heavenly Father, opening to us the path to eternal life.
Everything in the New Testament is clearly revealed. Whoever heeds this teaching will see grace-filled light, come to a knowledge of God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit; he will see his purpose—in eternal life—and the path to reaching this goal: through faith in Jesus Christ and through fulfilling His commandments. Following his purpose, he strives to distance himself from vices and perfects himself in the virtues, fulfilling the commandments of Christ. Whoever lives this way will not err, but as in the light of day will see the path to the Heavenly Fatherland and walk it. In the light of Christ’s teachings he will clearly discern the crossroads that lead to perdition, and will make every effort to steer clear of them, ever holding to the path that the Savior Himself walked and to which He now calls us, saying, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Matt. 16:24).
Dear brothers and sisters, we are enlightened by the light of Christ’s teaching, but we have to be careful, so that having learned the rules and norms of Christian life, we would not find ourselves not conducting our lives according to the spirit of Christ’s teaching. We must think, feel, speak, and act as the Lord Himself felt, spoke, and acted, as He commanded us in His Holy Gospels; so that the unbelievers would not reproach us for not living according to the faith. For faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:20). And therefore we should make every effort to join good deeds to our faith. If we allow ourselves enmity, slander, hatred, anger, deceitfulness, and theft, then our faith is false and not true. Let us always confirm our faith with good works, so that we would in this way fulfill the eternal commandment of Christ: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matt. 5:16). Amen.