It was a very discouraging time. The armies of the superpower of the Middle East, Assyria, were on the march. They swept through the kingdoms of Syria and Israel, killing or deporting the leaders of the people and settling foreigners in their places.
The relentless progress of the Assyrians Gilead, Galilee, Megiddo, Samaria brought them through the kingdom of Judah to the very gates of Jerusalem itself. That incorrigibly optimistic Jerusalemite, the impossible dreamer, the prophet Isaiah, refused to be overwhelmed by fear and discouragement.
He boldly counseled King Ahaz against seeking Egyptian alliances and clever political solutions to prevent the fall of the city. His unflinching advice was to trust in the power of God only in the power of God.
Isaiah foresaw not only the salvation of Jerusalem but the redemption of all the afflicted and suffering people of the conquered lands:
Anguish has taken wing,
dispelled is darkness:
for there is no gloom where but now
there was distress.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
Nowadays, our temptation is similar to that of the besieged Jerusalemites thousands of years ago the world is becoming a terrible place, all is lost, theres little or no hope for the future.
The night he was betrayed, the day before he was executed as a seditionist, the one who was hailed by old Simeon as a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel, said something bolder than Isaiah:
In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.
During Holy Week, after the blessing of the new fire, the Easter candle is lit, symbol of the light of Christ. Then every believer present lights a candle from the Christ candle and, lo, the church is bright.
At baptism there is a similar ceremony. A candle is lighted from the same Christ candle for the newly baptized person as a sign that he or she shares in the light of Christ, the conqueror of sin and death.
You are the light of the world, Jesus told us. Were the fighters against darkness and gloom. Were the ones whose indomitable optimism, courageous lives and confident goodness will help redeem the suffering of our day.
The poet William Blake wrote of Tyger, tyger, burning bright in the forests of the night.
Go, tyger, go! Lo, the world is bright.
Msgr. Archimandrite Robert L. Stern, Secretary General of CNEWA