Article of the Week

Physical Light and the Light of Christ

Physical Light and the Light of Christ

This daily feature is the introduction to a full article by David A. Grandy that was published in issue 53:4. To read the full text of this article, follow the link below.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus Christ is introduced as the Logos, that is, the Word of God by which the cosmos was created and rendered intelligible. It appears that John is responding here, at least in part, to the Greek belief that the universe is a place of reason, beauty, and harmony, and he is tracing those qualities instead back to Christ. Striking a note that would appeal to both Jew and Gentile, he states that in Christ the Logos “was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Christ was “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). Here light could almost trade places with life, for light is not simply a pleasant addition to reality, a nice extra. Rather, it shines or burns with life-combusting radiance.

The Gospel of John is filled with other images of light, the most memorable being Christ’s simple declaration, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). For those attuned to biblical echoes, this affirmation reverberates with “Let there be light,” the first great creation formula of the book of Genesis. Although God will later create the lights of the heavens (the sun, moon, and stars), he does not, according to Michael Welker, work in darkness and so first calls into existence an ambience of brightness. Welker insists that an understanding of Genesis begins with the realization that “Creation connects diverse processes and domains of life and orders them in such a way that they can be known by human beings and that human beings can enter into communication with God.” The circumambient light-realm enables this ordering, integrating activity; it is a matrix that engenders life, understanding, and communion with God.

Not only that, but light as a principle of creation seems to remain eternally operative in the cosmos. The circumambient light-realm timelessly informs what comes thereafter, so that now physical light may be said to participate in the moment of creation.