The theme of light stretches throughout the entire Bible. History of the world started when God separated light from darkness: And God said, ‘Let there be light’ (Gen. 1.3). The conclusion of history will cancel darkness completely. There will not be any need for the Sun or the Moon to shine, for God shall be the light for all – says the last Book of the Bible, the Revelation of St. John. And the images of those belonging to this new world – the Kingdom of uncreated light, themselves illuminated by the shadowless light, observe us from Orthodox icons and fresco paintings. The conflict between light and darkness symbolically signifies the conflict between life and death, between good and evil.
The light of God, ‘The Sun of Justice’ leads the chosen people through history, but it is only on Mount Tabor, at the event of the Holy Transfiguration of our Lord, that the uncreated light of the One in Whom there is no darkness would be revealed to the three Apostles.
Following the event of the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, which marked the beginning of the Church as we know it, we have been given the opportunity to become one with Christ by partaking in the Holy Eucharist. We, thus, receive the uncreated light and it dwells within us and shines upon our soul. It is up to us to keep it within us. Those that become one with Christ (i.e. Christians partaking in the Holy Eucharist) are able to perceive this inner uncreated light by their hearts. They are able to develop the potentiality of this gift and its divine character more and more until they find God Himself.
This is the foundation of Orthodox mysticism, especially defended by the life and accomplishments of Saint Gregory Palamas. Orthodox monastics, living before and after him, often set this special goal of becoming divine and by doing so they have become prophets of the New Testament. However, becoming divine is the prerogative and a potentiality given to all Christians.
Created light stemming from physical sources is seen by the Church as the symbolic road sign on her path towards uncreated light and it has a significant role in Church ritual. Liturgical rules prescribe that the church is to be illuminated at some occasions and darkened at other. A lit beeswax candle is given to the newly baptized as well as to newlyweds. All those gathered at the memorial service for the departed also bear lit beeswax candles. Light in the church always represents Christ (the Light of the world) and the illumination that He has brought to us – the knowledge of true God, a potentiality to reach God, and the gift of communication with Him.