|From the discourses addressed to Thalassius by
Saint Maximus the Confessor
[ c. 580 – 662 A.D. ]
I think that in his wisdom the great David understood this when he called the Lord a lamp: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. For that is the sort of Saviour my Lord and God is, delivering men from the darkness of ignorance and sin, which is also why scripture calls him a lamp.The lamp that is set on the lamp-stand is the true light from the Father, the light that enlightens every man coming into the world, namely our Lord Jesus Christ. By becoming one of us and assuming our human nature he became and was called the lamp. This means that he is by nature the wisdom and word of God, the Father, which is faithfully and loyally preached in God’s Church and which is raised up as a shining and resplendent light among the nations by a life of virtue led in accordance with the commandments, giving light to all who are in the house (by that I mean in this world). So the divine Word says somewhere: Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Clearly he is calling himself a lamp, for while he was God by nature he became a man according to God’s plan of salvation.
Like a lamp he has dispelled the gloom of ignorance and the darkness of sin, and in this way he alone has become the path to salvation for all men. By virtue and knowledge he brings to the Father all those who are resolved to follow him, who is the way of righteousness, by keeping the divine commandments. The Holy Church he calls the lamp-stand, for through its preaching the word of God shines out on it and enlightens all that live in this world, as in a house, with the brightness of truth, filling the minds of all men with the knowledge of God.
The word will not suffer being kept under a bushel: it needs to be set on that great and beautiful lamp-stand that is the Church. For if the word is restricted by the letter of the law, like a light hidden under a bushel, it deprives all men of eternal light. It offers no spiritual vision to men striving to free themselves from the senses. For they recognise that these are misleading, capable only of error and able to grasp only what is of their own nature, that is to say subject to decay. But once the word is placed on the lamp-stand, that is the Church, where God receives true worship in spirit, then it will give light to all men.
If the letter is not understood according to the spirit, then it can only be grasped with the senses, which means that what it has to say is restricted and the force of what is written is not allowed to sink into the mind.
Therefore, let us not put the lamp (that is the enlightening word of knowledge) which we have lit by spiritual contemplation and action under a bushel. Let us not be guilty of restricting the incomprehensible force of wisdom by the letter. Let us put it on the lamp-stand (by that I mean the Church), where on the heights of true contemplation it may hold out the light of divine teaching to all men.