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I am the Light of the World

Father Matta El-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor)


This is a brief article by Fr. Matthew the Poor (Abouna Matta El-Meskeen), the Spiritual Father of the Monastery of St. Macarius, Wadi el-Natroun, Egypt, featuring a contemplation on the meaning of Christ's declaration, "I am the light of the world." It is an excerpt from a larger work bearing the same name, written in Arabic, and is reprinted here with express permission from Fr. Matthew the Poor and St. Mark's Monthly Review, where the article was also published.


The Meaning of "I am the light of the world."

Here, the word "light" is defined by the definite article, so that the light is absolutely and completely belonging to Christ. This renders the meaning as "I am the complete light of the world." There exists no other light for the world. No oe other than Christ can be considered as its light.

Indeed, the whole verse, not only the phrase "the light of the world," but also its beginning, "I am," is defined by the definite article. It is a proclamatory verse in which Christ announces himself as the Yahweh God of the New Testament. The definite article in "the light" points to the person of Christ and not to His nature. So the light here is not thought of as a mere emanation, but as a radiant person. It may be defined in this way: the light works through the person of Christ and not through the nature of God. Christ does not give out light, but offers Himself. "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 12:36.)

Christ explained it in the rest of the verse by saying, "...he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12.) We perceive "the light of life" as we perceived the "bread of life." The bread is not bread nor is the light light, but life in Christ is the bread and the light. The world does not need a light to illuminate what is in it, but needs a completely new life based on the light of God. This means Christ's words, "I am the light of the world," aims basically at changing the world to a completely new life. Therefore, Christ's aim of being in the world is focused on faith in Him personally so that the world is transformed into light through Christ. "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light" (John 12:36.)




NE OF THE CHARACTERISTICS OF LIGHT is that it shines in the darkness. If light is present, darkness disappears. It is impossible for light and darkness to reside together. This is a hidden aspect to Christ’s statement that he is the light of the world, meaning when Christ came darkness disappeared forever from the world, as did all the deeds of darkness.

The allusion is profoundly deep, for the direct meaning of Christ’s statement here is that he came to crush Satan, alluded by the authority of darkness. It is also the final and eternal sign that Christ came to crush all the works of Satan which he imposed upon the world. As the dead in their graves represent the world of darkness, so Christ’s first concern was to dispose of the world of death and the dead. With his resurrection he shined life, eliminated death and by his resurrection raised the dead from their graves. Lazarus’ resurrection prepared the way for Christ’s authority over death and the dead to appear.

Shaking the earth, Christ’s call “Lazarus come forth” was the voice of good news that brings joy to all the dead in their graves for all time, that there would no longer be death and the dead, for the prince of life reigns and his reign is forever and ever.

Notice that light and life are among the greatest characteristics of Christ’s nature, for Christ who said “I am the light of the world”[1] is himself resurrection with all its glory. Someone will say, ‘But we still until now die and enter the darkness of the grave,’ but  know for certain it is the death of resurrection and the darkness that is followed by the light of eternal life. We who still carry the marks of sin will shake them off at last at death, and in the darkness of the grave will move beyond their bitterness. Realize that Christ paid the entire price for sin on the cross and in the grave, to bring us into a resurrection triumphant and eternal. Though we may die, Christ remains our life, and though we enter the darkness of the grave, Christ is the light of our eternal life. We pass through death and the darkness of the grave with Christ, to inherit in him and with him eternal life and its light that will never go out.

In Christ’s statement “I am the light of the world,” one of its qualities is the light of knowledge. In this we rise to the summit of light and knowledge, for at its core light is knowledge, and at its core knowledge is truth. Knowledge is not that of understanding and intellect, rather, it is the knowledge of revelation, and at its core, truth is God. So having accepted Christ’s “I am the light of the world,”[2] he has brought us to God’s doorstep!

This, dear reader, is Christ. So when he says “I am the light of the world,” he means he is the door and the way that leads to the heart of God. From here we know we are called to receive Christ in acceptance of the divine, recognizing that, according to the book of Hebrews, he is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.”[3] This fills the soul with gladness, joy and the greatest happiness. When Christ says “I am the light of the world,” he is placing us on the doorstep of the holy things of the Most High.

September 29, 2005


On the incident of the massacre of January first this year (2011)

Martyrdom is a Living Renewal of the Cross

[Bearing witness to Christ by word of mouth, that is by preaching, is one thing; bearing witness to him by one’s blood is another. One is a proclamation by one’s life, the other a proclamation by one’s death. The first, that is the witness by word of mouth, is a struggle with people, with flesh and blood, to bring the flesh of the old man, with its ideas and imaginings, into obedience to Christ. It is an extension of the work and ministry and teaching of Christ. It carries with it affliction and labor, hardship, persecution and a limited amount of suffering. The second, that is the witness by the shedding of blood, is a struggle not with people, or with flesh and blood, but with the powers of evil, with the devil himself, and all his hosts, who have the authority to kill the body. So it is a true extension of the cross, where salvation through Christ attains its aim and is fulfilled. … Bearing witness to Christ by the shedding of blood is a living renewal of the cross, in which Christ is present in the heart, mind and spirit of the martyr, supporting him till his last breath, stretching out his body with his own and setting his wounds where His own were made.] (emphasis by the editor).

(Excerpt from: “The Feast of the Martyrs” by Father Matta El-Meskeen,

St Mark Monthly Review Sept 1999).


[1] See John 8:12.

[2] John 8:12.

[3] See Heb 1:3.

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