Friday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 29:17-24 + Matthew 9:27-31
December 4, 2020
The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Advent corresponds roughly with the final weeks when the day grows shorter (at least, in the Northern Hemisphere). There’s a great deal of imagery in the scriptures and liturgies of Advent that relates to the human struggle with darkness. For example, the feast day of Saint Lucy—whose name comes from the Latin word for light, and whose feast is celebrated in many countries with a brilliant display of candles—falls close to the midpoint of Advent. On the following day the Church celebrates the feast of St. John of the Cross, a Doctor of the Church whose writings explore the “dark night of the soul”.
The refrain to today’s Responsorial is: “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” To reflect upon the Lord God Himself as “light” is infinitely more significant than reflecting upon the earth’s annual descent into darkness, or even upon the human darkness that one experiences while undergoing spiritual purification and growth in the divine virtue of faith.
The notion of the Lord God as light transcends any other notion of light that human persons experience. One way to appreciate this difference is to notice how Psalm 27 continues its description of the Lord. This Lord whom the Psalmist has just described as “light” is the object of the Psalmist’s sight. Consider how unusual that is.
In ordinary human life, light serves to illuminate physical objects. A man would be thought odd if he stared at a light bulb, and reckless if he stared at the sun. But in Psalm 27 the Psalmist describes the Lord as the focus of his sight: “One thing I ask of the Lord; / this I seek: / To dwell in the house of the Lord / all the days of my life, / That I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord / and contemplate his temple.” One might consider these verses as the Old Testament’s clearest description of what the Church calls the “Beatific Vision”. To be a saint in Heaven is to gaze forever at the Lord, who is pure light.