“Now that we have come to the setting of the sun and behold the light of evening we praise God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…”
The shortness of days have reached their peak with the first day of winter having arrived on December 21. We become more acutely aware of the setting sun when it drops so early in the day. I remember as a child the coziness of the afternoon darkness in a home filled with physical and emotional warmth. Now as a man the sensations which arise at this time of year are very different indeed.
I, together with my wife, am now the one responsible to provide the blanket of security like that which so graciously covered me as a child. We are now the ones who must face the daily traffic of dedication and duty while somehow recapturing what seemed to be an ease of peace in the “coziness” of youth. As obligations mount I become so much more appreciative of the effort and sacrifice my parents put into raising their children; how could I have known with all the sports, studies (ha!), entertainment and employment (minimal) that occupied MY world. It has been a rude, but blessed awakening to receive the opportunity to choose to give up my youthful freedom and aimlessness. I call it blessed because this freedom and aimlessness rarely, if ever, gives meaning to life. Although I have only just begun the life of sacrifice to which my parents ascended, God in His usual and faithful way is already showing me the joy and fulfillment that comes from His discipline and self-denial.
“For this reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8)
Unfortunately, we live in a world where the acts of sacrifice and self-denial are all too often scoffed. It is a world unaware of its own evening, its own setting sun, its own darkness. Every night Orthodox Christians celebrate the liturgy of Vespers with the singing of the above quoted hymn, “O Gladsome Light”. Thank God we have our “Light of evening,” Jesus Christ. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) This is our remembrance as we gather to pray, to encourage and be encouraged and to celebrate this life which we have been given to glorify God and further His Kingdom and His legacy in ourselves and in the world.