‘The World needs the light of Christ’

By Rose Brennan

BRIDGEPORT—When a “Let Me Be Frank” listener asked Bishop Frank J. Caggiano which verse in sacred Scripture was the most important, his answer of “all of them” was a home run. Or so he thought.

View Bishop Caggiano’s homily here »

This was how Bishop Caggiano began his reflection on the Sacred Triduum during the annual Chrism Mass on March 28 at St. Augustine Cathedral. Yes, he said, all of sacred Scripture was important, that remained true. But as the days passed, the bishop found himself reevaluating his answer to that question. Perhaps the question wasn’t what was the most important verse in Scripture, but the most poignant.

And so, the bishop said, his answer to that question evolved. For many years, he found himself coming back to the words of Pontius Pilate during Christ’s Passion: “What is the truth?” But now, he found himself coming back to a different verse, found in the Gospel of John.

That verse “gives us the context of what we are about to celebrate as Christians. It is the parable of discipleship,” Bishop Caggiano said. “They are the words that St. John puts into his Gospel immediately after Judas betrays the Lord … And there are four words John says: ‘And it was night.’”

Yes, it was literally night when the disciples were gathered at that moment in Scripture. But the bishop felt there was something more to John’s description of that evening—or rather, its darkness. After all, he said, facing darkness is a critical aspect of Christian life.

“In the word ‘night’ … is the struggles that you and I face in our lives, to peel away the darkness of sin and deception,” he said. “It is all that takes us away from the light, which is what we are about to celebrate as dusk leads to night tonight: the great mystery, the unfolding of our salvation, is he who we will proclaim in the Easter Vigil as Christ our light.”

While the liturgies of the next few days will commemorate some of the darkest chapters of Christ’s life – betrayal, torture and even death – the bishop reminded us that we must not forget that the light is coming, in the form of Christ’s resurrection. 

“The Lord Jesus allows the light to be victorious, to shine not just in the tomb, but in every moment of his grace, in every moment of the ages to come, until the light alone is what exists,” the bishop said. “And the darkness and he who creates it is cast into the abyss forever.”

Even among the darkness we face, the light is still present in many things, Bishop Caggiano said. Notably, it is present in the Sacred Chrism, the Oil of Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick that would be blessed at the Chrism Mass that day.

“We are here today because these oils and the sacraments that celebrate them are the vessels of light and grace for those preparing to be baptized, so that all the sins of their lives could be forgiven,” he said. “All of us have had that great privilege in this Church. All of us have been set free.”

The Chrism Mass is celebrated on Holy Thursday, but the bishop also reminded those gathered that Holy Thursday also commemorates the establishment of the sacred priesthood. As such, the priests renewed the vows they made at the Sacrament of Holy Orders, resolving to be united with Christ, conforming to him, and to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist.

The bishop recalled that the sacred priesthood was another way to fight against the darkness of the world, proclaiming the light of Christ for all to see.

“We must remember that we are told to be the heralds of the light, to dare … by our ministries and by our preaching to give God’s people, you and I, and ourselves the path by which we might bring the light of Christ where there is no light, or where the darkness threatens that light,” Bishop Caggiano said.

Finally, the bishop reflected on the concept of twilight. Perhaps many of those gathered didn’t experience true darkness in our lifelong walks of discipleship, but more often faced a “twilight,” or a blurring of the darkness and the light—our struggles with temptation, and at times our failures to do what is right.

But even with the darkness present in the twilight, the bishop said, there was still the hope of light conquering it.

“In the natural course of 24 hours, twilight happens twice: at dawn and at dusk,” Bishop Caggiano said. “And we are now on the threshold of the great mystery of all mysteries: the great mystery of salvation that tells us that the twilight is destined for dawn.”

Photos by Amy Mortensen