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O Gladsome Light

We are using the theme “Let your Light Shine” for our 2024 theme. It will also be the theme of our coming Camp in June. We will share some reflections along the way on this rich theme.


I am reminded of the ancient Canticle, Phos Hilaron. It is one of the earliest Christian hymns we have in record that is outside of our Bible. The two words in Greek stand for "Gladsome Light" and here are the lyrics:


O Light gladsome of the holy glory of the Immortal Father,

   the Heavenly, the Holy, the Blessed, O Jesus Christ,

Having come upon the setting of the sun, having seen the light of the evening,

  we praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: God.

Worthy it is at all times to praise Thee in joyful voices,

  O Son of God, Giver of Life, for which the world glorifies Thee.


This hymn is still used in the Church today. It is often said or sung in our evening prayers. We can imagine the evening scene as the light of the sun fades. What come on instead are many sources of light. They create a beautiful scene of flickering and dazzling arrays. These inspired the hymn writer to pen these words. Till today, we are still romanced, enchanted and fascinated by the lights of the evening, as we were, when we took some guests on the Singapore River Cruise.


Biblically, the theme of light and darkness is pervasive. Today, we understand that the primary source of light-energy is the sun. However, the ancient writer marvelled at the lights without the cosmic knowledge we possess. Pondering on the beauty of evening lights around him (or her?), he said, "having "seen the light of the evening, we praise God." The spectacle reminded him of the Light of Christ, the "Giver of Life, for which the world glorifies Thee."


Light, a metaphor for goodness, clarity, and revelation, holds a central place in our existence. As bearers of reflected light, we find relief in not being the source. Yet, even as reflected light, our role is beautiful and essential. And how useful, for without light we will be stumbling in darkness. It has been a while since we experience "blackout" here. I had one experience when I was in Malaysia recently. We take light for granted and will immediately get into crisis mode when it is absent.


As Jesus said in Matthew 5: 16: "Let your light shine before men." May we embrace the privilege of being light bearers, allowing the light we host to illuminate the Father's presence. May our actions and reflections embody the profound truth that in our shared journey, we are all recipients of the "Giver of Life," the Gladsome Light.


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