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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Father Rutler: The Light of Christ Does Not Go Out

A weekly column by Father George W. Rutler.

During the days following Hurricane Sandy, we had no electric light in our church for five days, and as I am writing this in time for the printer, we still have no heat, and my fingers are pretty cold as they type on a cold keyboard. We can be thankful for the many ways our parishioners have been helping out in these days, and we are not unaware of the needs of those who worship here, who have gone through sore trials: evacuated from our local hospitals; homes burned to the ground; and at least one whose house was washed out into the ocean. For many days, we relied on candlepower for Masses and confessions. I read from the Missal on the altar with the help of a candlestick that had belonged to a great, great-grandfather who was in the Crimean War. While the electricity failed, the candlestick still served its purpose. My ancestor could not have imagined that one day it would be used for Mass in America, but it was for me a nostalgic moment.

Now, nostalgia has been called history after a few drinks: we remember the best and filter out the worst. Nostalgia lacks the vitality of tradition, which Chesterton called “the democracy of the dead.” Tradition means passing something on, and sacred tradition passes on what is holy. Tradition is lively and life-giving, uniting past, present and future in a spiritual continuum, as Christ was and is and will be.

Like the old candlestick that sheds light when electric power fails, the Light of Christ does not go out. The same voice that said “Let there be Light” billions of years ago, sheds light on us today. And “the darkness had not overcome it” (John 1:5). Certainly there are those who choose the darkness of evil to the light of goodness: “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God” (John 3:20-21).

Those who oppose Christ have their day, but it does not last long, and soon they also have their night, when they shrink away into dark corners. In the great challenge of our culture, we are free to choose light or darkness. God is pro-choice: He has given us a free will. But He is only pro right choice. The exercise of choice is not self-justifying. Only the choice of the light of Christ can save us from the darkness of Satan. And what better authority can we have for this than our holy God Himself? “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

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