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Bishop Paul Sirba: Jesus, the light of the world, accompanies us

The pillar of cloud was both light and darkness, a cloud to lead the Chosen People during the day and a pillar of fire by night. It was a manifestation of God’s presence among His people. The pillar of cloud was said to have rested over the tabernacle of the covenant during encampment, rose as a signal that camp was to be broken, preceded the people during the day’s march and stopped where they were to pitch their tents.

Bishop Paul Sirba
Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

At the crossing of the Red Sea, as recorded in the book of Exodus, “the column of cloud, moving from in front of them, took up its place behind them, so that it came between the Egyptian army and that of Israel. And when it became dark, the cloud illumined the night” (Exodus 14: 19).

St. Paul considered the cloud a type of baptism when he said, “I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Corinthians 10: 1-2).

Our Advent journey is one of both light and darkness. We experience darkness in our world in the shortened days of winter. We also experience darkness in our human poverty and pain and in all the world’s problems, rooted in our sins. But we are people of hope. For us, the light always shines in the darkness. Our light is Jesus Christ! Christ is the light of the world. With our Advent wreathes we mark the passage of years when the Chosen People waited for the coming of the Messiah. When we light each candle, we remember this. Advent helps us to prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the light of the world — God from God, light from light. Our prayers and good deeds, our sacrifices and offerings offer the brightness of love to our brothers and sisters in their need.

It was pointed out to me by a priest friend that in the daylight, on a clear day, you can see for miles, but at night you can see light years. How is it that the sun, which provides light during the day, causes you to go blind if you look directly at it? The more powerful the light, the less equipped our eyes are to handle it.

So, too, in the spiritual life. What has been described by mystics as the dark night of the senses/soul is a progression or deepening of the spiritual life. St. Teresa of Calcutta experienced the dark night of faith yet radiated the love of Jesus to all around her. The closer we get to God as He is in Himself, light is shrouded in darkness. We must walk by faith and not by sight.

Soon, very soon, we will be celebrating Christmas. At a time we least expect it, we will encounter the Lord of glory at His second coming. When the angels announced His birth, the glory of the Lord shone round about them. When He comes again, He will ride on the clouds of heaven and His Kingdom will have no end.

As the pillar of cloud accompanied God’s Chosen People into the Promised Land, Jesus Christ the light of the world accompanies us, saves us, and has mercy upon us on our journey to the Kingdom. Maranatha, come Lord Jesus! Emmanuel, God is with us!

Bishop Paul D. Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.