O Gladsome Light
Φως ιλαρόν – O Gladsome Light
Gladsome light of the holy glory of the holy, blessed, heavenly, immortal Father, O Jesus Christ: arriving at the hour of sunset and having seen the evening light, we praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God. It is worthy for You to be praised at all times with happy voices, O Son of God and Giver of life; and therefore the world glorifies you
This well-known hymn is chanted during the Vespers service, at the conclusion of the ‘entrance’ with the priest holding the Holy Bible or censor. Once the priest reaches the solea, having silently said the ‘Prayer of the Entrance,’ he proclaims loudly “Wisdom, arise.”
It is at this point that the clergy and the people chant this beautiful, powerful hymn, which is considered one of the oldest in the Orthodox Church.
During the persecutions under the Emperor Diocletian (284 – 305), Saint Athenogenes was sentenced to death by burning. Tradition tells us that as the Saint approached the fire, he chanted this hymn in praise of the Holy Trinity. It has been found in writings dating back to the fourth century.
The hymn begins by addressing Jesus as our joyful light of the “holy glory of the holy, blessed, heavenly, immortal Father.”
The Holy Glory is the Father’s and Jesus is the light of that glory. By becoming human, Jesus spread His light and the glory of God to the world: “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).
Jesus is praised as the Light which illumines humankind’s darkness. Jesus reigns in the Glory of the Father, that He had “before all ages.”
This moving description, and the tone in which it is sung, fills us with wonder at our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and His Father, our God.
The hymn continues in praise of the Holy Trinity and affirms that it is “worthy” to praise Jesus “at all times with happy voices.”
As Jesus showed us the way to eternal life: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), it is meet for all to glorify His name.
Source: Lychnos August-September 2021