When you attend Presanctified Liturgy tonight, listen for this prayer:
O Joyful Light of the Holy Glory of the Father immortal,
the heavenly, holy, Blessed One; O Jesus Christ.
Now that we have reached the setting of the sun
and see the evening light, we sing to God, +Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It is fitting at all times to raise a song of praise in measured melody to You,
O Son of God, the giver of life. Therefore the universe sings your glory.
Priest: Wisdom! Be attentive! The Light of Christ shines upon everyone!
People: Make three great prostrations in silence.
Did you know that this is a very ancient hymn, and that it is considered the very oldest song, besides those written in scripture, that Christians still sing today?
We know that it was written sometime before the fourth century, because it was recorded in the Constitution of the Apostles, which was written at that time. St. Basil the Great, who also lived during that time period, mentioned in his writings that it was a beloved hymn in his day as well.
After the Resurrection, when Christians would gather at the empty tomb of Christ in Jerusalem for worship, there was always a vigil candle kept in the tomb in honor of the great event that happened there. It would remind the Christians that Jesus had brought so much Light into the world and into the heart of everyone who believed in Him. When this lamp was ceremoniously brought out for all of the faithful to see, this was the hymn that the believers would offer to God in memory of the Light that had joyfully come into the world. By the end of the fourth century, it was incorporated in the Byzantine Vespers service, and we can hear it sung every evening at Vespers to this very day!
When we live in darkness, we do not see very clearly. We can miss a lot, and become content to live without really understanding what is surrounding us. Although, when light enters, we suddenly begin to see everything clearly! The details that were once lost to us are now very much apparent and we can navigate much more easily! THIS is what the Light of Christ does for a soul. The presence of His Light gives us clarity and confidence.
No wonder the faithful have always referred to Him as a Joyful Light!