In his gospel, one of St John’s favourite themes was the contrast between light and darkness. He included a number of sayings on this subject. One of these was the following statement, made by Christ both to his disciples and to the people: “I am the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5; 12:46).
Referring to this saying, Pope St John Paul II explained: “For those who first heard Jesus, as for us, the symbol of light evokes the desire for truth and the thirst for the fullness of knowledge which are imprinted deep within every human being. When the light fades or vanishes altogether, we no longer see things as they really are. In the heart of the night we can feel frightened and insecure, and we impatiently await the coming of the light of dawn.“
He added: “The light which Jesus speaks of in the Gospel is the light of faith, God’s free gift, which enlightens the heart and clarifies the mind. “It is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). That is why the words of Jesus explaining his identity and his mission are so important: “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
This stained glass scene of Christ as the Light of the World is found in the south transept of the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, in Manchester. Captioned ‘Lux Mundi’ (Latin for ‘Light of the World’), it’s paired with another of Christ’s ‘I am’ sayings, that of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18).
The window is by Hardman & Co. and dates to the late 1890s. It features Christ holding a lamp aloft with his left hand, while clutching a Bible in his right. The image brings to mind Christ’s description of his followers as “the light of the world”, where he used the symbol of a lamp to describe their good works (Matthew 5:14-15). It also reflects references in Scripture about the Word of God as a source of light (cf Psalm 119:105; John 1:1-9).
See the full image:
Hardman & Co. / Christ the Light of the World and the Good Shepherd / Stained glass / late 1890s
Where to find this work of art
Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, Manchester
Read the relevant passage
On a similar theme
- From the Old Testament: The saying builds on the biblical story of the creation of the world, when God said: “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).
- From the New Testament: The window pairs the phrase with another of Christ’s “I am” sayings, I am the Good Shepherd.