Glorious Birth of Our Lord

Glorious Birth of Our Lord
(From Prayer of the Faithful According to the Maronite Liturgical Year)
The Divine Liturgy in the Maronite tradition often mentions the title "Mary, Mother of the Light." The opening prayer of the liturgy used to mention it every day. This title is rich in theological and spiritual significance and is indeed one of the treasures of the Maronite Church. The image of light conveys a sense of joy, festivity, and life. Religion uses the image of light to express the notion of purity and the presence of God, Since light is the element which is proper to the divine Being, from ancient times the pagans adored the sun. At the end of December, the pagans celebrated a feast dedicated to the "Unconquerable Sun." In fact, on December 21st the nights, which had been becoming longer and longer, begin to shorten. The ancients celebrated this conquest of the light over the darkness.

When Constantine granted freedom for Christians to worship publicly, it was appropriate to replace the celebration of the Unconquerable Sun, with the Feast of the New Sun of the world, to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Light of the world (John 3: 19).
The image of light is found throughout salvation history. The Aramaic Fathers of the Antiochene tradition teach us that creation is a preparation for the incarnation of the Son of God. All was created by the Father, through the Son. Scripture tells us that the first thing that was created is the sun: it is the heavenly body which gives forth light, warmth and life itself. The sun is the image of the Son of God because Christ himself is that light which comes from heaven. As a ray of light coming through a cloud, he appeared from the Virgin Mary. When God created the world, he separated the light from the darkness and throughout the Old Testament, one finds the light and the darkness contrasted with one another. In the New Testament, there is a constant struggle between the light and the darkness.

The genealogy in the gospel account of Matthew describes the human ancestry of Jesus and, as such, lists the sinners whose sins Jesus had to bear. This is the side of darkness in the spiritual realm. Saint John describes Jesus as coming from God, light from light: "I have come to the world as its light to keep anyone who believes in me from remaining in the dark" (John 12: 46). The account of the birth of Jesus contains the image of light throughout. The shepherds saw a great light, "The glory of the Lord shone around them" (Luke 2:9). The Magi saw a brilliant star in the skies, and followed it (Matthew 2: 9-11). The shepherds said, "let us go", and the Magi said, "we saw a light and we came” (Luke 2:15; Matthew 2:2).

Throughout the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we find the image of light used to express his divinity. His baptism was a true revelation and, as such, a great enlightenment. During the transfiguration, Jesus was surrounded by light (Matthew 17: 2-5). When Jesus died on the cross, darkness came upon the earth (Matthew 27:45) and the soldier, standing at the foot of the cross, was moved to say, ''Truly, this was the Son of God" (Matthew 27:54). The resurrection itself was blinding light (Matthew 28:2). The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is described as "tongues of fire" (Acts 2: 3). Upon seeing a great light and being thrown from his horse, Saul came to believe (Acts 9:3). While in prison, Peter saw a bright light and was freed from his chains (Acts 12:6). Just as the shepherds and Magi saw and followed the light, we who have seen the Light must follow. Jesus told us, "Walk while you have the light" (John 2: 19; 5:34; 12: 35-36). This feast of the Birth of Our Lord, the Light of the world, should be an incentive for us to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

"The night shall be no more. They will need no light from lamps or the sun, for the Lord God shall give them light and they shall reign forever" (Revelation 22:5).