Joan was fascinated with light as it revealed the mystery of God. When she died her Jesuit brother recalled that in his homily, mentioning Joan’s fascination with the image in our creed, “Light from light.”
Jesus referred to his cousin, John the Baptizer, the forerunner of Jesus, saying, He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.
Light points the way; it allows us to see and to read. Light affects us positively, which is why some of us are sad to see the hours of daylight gradually diminish as summer slips away.
Light also can blind, it can hurt our eyes, not to mention age our skin if we get overexposed to some of its wavelengths. Think of rousing and beginning to wake in a darkened room. Someone flips a switch and floods the room with light. What is our reaction? We cover our eyes, we squint open our eyes a little at a time as our eyes adjust to the light of day.
That image helps me appreciate the weak-willed Herod: When he heard [John] speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. Herod’s spirit squinted, yet he liked the light of this burning, shining lamp. I wonder how many times after he put John in his prison that Herod went to hear him. Yes, he was afraid to kill John because the people admired him, but more than fear moved Herod’s heart. Such a movement, hard to name, might well be being taught by God.
I once wrote off Herod as a worthless villain. Yet even Herod was sensitive to John and his message and to Jesus and John’s message which Jesus continued: transform your lives!
Our Orthodox brothers and sisters fast today to recall the strict life John led. We might choose to fast from what keeps us from drawing nearer to the Light from light and living as the shining lamps Jesus said our vocations are--light for the sake of our world.