Today during the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, we heard how the priest, turning to the people, pronounced: “The Light of Christ illumines all.” And yesterday [the First Week of Great Lent] during the reading of the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete we heard other words: “Be vigilant, my soul… and you shall see God with eye of your mind and reach the unapproachable darkness.”
In the Old Testament we read about how Moses ascended the mountain to the realm of outer darkness. Divine darkness is the realm of inaccessible Light, in which the Lord abides. Here we are talking about such power and intensity of Light, which even the holiest man is not able to apprehend. It similar to how a human retina is not capable of receiving the direct rays of the midday sun. When we look at the sun without sunglasses, our eyes go dark. That is why on canonical, correctly painted icons of Christ (something that unfortunately is not always found), the illumination around the Risen Savior is depicted in such a way that the closer you get to the figure of the Lord Himself, the more intense is the darkness, and the further you get from Him, the more this darkness disperses. By this the Church shows us the ascetic experience of the fathers, who know very well that the closer you get to God, the deeper is the darkness due to the supernatural radiance of the divinity.
The unapproachable divine Light came to us Himself in that form and manner, so that we would be able to not only see Him with the inner eyes of our souls, but also partake of Him in spirit. This Light illumines every person who comes into the world of divine glory. The striving to live in this Light, to partake of Him, was placed in the divine plan for man from the beginning. Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Cosmas of Aitolia said that water was created for the fish that swim in it; earth was created for the animals that walk upon it on four legs; and air was created for the birds, so that they would part it with their wings. Only man was placed upon Earth in such a way that while touching it with only the soles of his feet, his mind and heart would reach for the higher world. When St. Gregory of Palamas died, his last words were the summary of his whole life. Taking his final breath, the saint pronounced, “To the Light.” To this is what the life of every person should be directed.