First Sunday After Christmas

Light pouring into the Hagia Sophia Cathedral — photos by the Byzantine Institute

December 26, 2021 Lectionary Texts — Year C
1 Samuel 2:18-20,26
Psalm 148
Colossians 3:12-17
Luke 2:41-52


Sancta (Hagia) Sophia is a sphere of light.

Thomas Whittemore

Just in the past week, scrolling through social media, I came across a post detailing how the ancient Christian cathedrals were masterfully constructed in a way that the space would most optimally be filled with light very specifically on the morning(s) following the longest night of the year, the winter solstice, in celebration of the True Light coming into the world.

The article by John Sanidopoulos details how this concept was incorporated by the two architects hired by Byzantine ruler Justinian in building the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul. Photos taken by Thomas Whittemore’s Byzantine Institute who uncovered and restored the original mosaics in Hagia Sophia in the 1930’s reveal the stunning light displays symbolizing the birth of Christ.

Son of God love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
— lyrics from Silent Night

But now I am imagining worshiping in a space and experiencing this burst of natural light. How amazing! I have tremendous new appreciation for the architects who created such a space. It also saddens me for light and its symbolic presence in the worship space is not given much design consideration in this day and age.

Exploring the images…

What strikes you about these images?
What thoughts do you have about worship spaces, planning or construction?
Do some places/spaces evoke/invite worship while others do not?
Do you ever imagine such a space within yourself?
What might these beautifully captured beams of light symbolize in the spiritual life?

Praise the Eternal!
All you in the heavens, praise the Eternal;
praise God from the highest places!
All you, God’s messengers and armies in heaven:
praise God!
Sun, moon, and all you brilliant stars above:
praise God!
Highest heavens and all you waters above the heavens:
praise God!
Let all things join together in a concert of praise to the name of the Eternal,
for God gave the command and they were created.
God put them in their places to stay forever —
God declared it so, and it is final.

Psalm 148:1-6

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