The Gospel of John provides a good context for this (John 8:12-20). It is the Feast of Tabernacles, and one of the exciting rituals took place in a courtyard where the Treasury was. There stood four gigantic candelabras that they would light up at night. Since the Temple was on the highest point of the mountain where the city was located, it lit up the city streets, and could even be seen from afar.
The blaze was a symbol of the pillar of fire that guided the Israelites in their Exodus to the Promised Land. They loving called it, “the light of God’s chosen people.” They danced, and sang psalms, in front of it until the sun came up, as thanksgiving and praise to God.
Light has always been a symbol for God, and so when Christ claimed to be the light of the world, he was claiming to be God for isn’t he the true Light of God’s Chosen People? He is the fire that guides us in our own Exodus from this sinful world into the true Promised Land of Heaven.
Light is very peculiar though. It isn’t just something we see, but the thing by which we see other things. In total darkness, without any light at all, we cannot see anything. If the light is dim, we can mistake things for something else. Reading in such conditions is difficult and will undoubtedly give one a headache eventually. But if the light is bright, we see everything as they are. We can make out even the tiniest of details. Small text that we couldn’t possibly make out, in a dimly lit room, becomes readable.
Christ is a light in this way. Our personalities, our experiences, and the society we live in tends to bias our perceptions and decisions. These are the curtains that dim the light, and in that diffused state we cannot see clearly. But, if we view things through Christ, we see things through the eyes of God who is all-knowing, and all-loving. And we can only discern this in the silence of meditative prayer.
Another peculiar thing we do with light is that we put it in front of us when we journey. It is supposed to light the path for us to follow, which is why vehicles have headlines on the very front. Christ should be our headlights just as the pillar of fire was the “headlights” of the ancient Israelites. Just as they followed the light, so should we follow Christ.
When we see the path that Christ lights up for us to follow, we will see that it is the same path he went through. It is a path of self-giving; a path where he carried his cross. It doesn’t mean that seeking happiness and joy is wrong; Christ didn’t teach us to be sadists. In fact, God hard-wired us with an insatiable craving for happiness and joy so we will find him who is the source of bottomless happiness and joy. While that is true, we shouldn’t be surprised that the path leading to that may involve sacrifice and suffering. But if it is the light of Christ that is leading the way, why would we doubt it is THE way to tread. The sooner we accept that, the sooner that we make peace with that, the rest of our journey will be serene.