Christ, the Morning Star

Greek-Catholic Melkite Priest Fr Robert Gibbons, member of the Society for Ecumenical Studies, shares his Reflection of the Month for April.

In the Liturgy of the Roman Catholic Easter Vigil, after the lighting of the new fire and blessing of the Easter Candle, the great hymn of the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) is sung.  At the end of this beautiful chant, we discover these words:

‘May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death’s domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever’.

I have heard this chant so many times in my life, and often sang it! I am always moved by it, particularly in the enduring image of Christ as our Light, the Morning Star which never sets! Now I serve as one of the priests for the Greek-Catholic Melkite Church in the UK, so this year my thoughts are very much with our Christian communities in the Middle East, particularly in Gaza, places where the resurrection was witnessed and Christianity began, but are darkened by violence. For me, the celebrations of Holy Week have been a powerful reminder that the light of the Morning Star, Christ rising in the East, is needed more than ever.

My ministry and work as a retired priest, enables my connection with the East to remain strong, particularly associations with groups intimately connected to Christians in the Middle East. Firstly, the Living Stones of the Holy Land Trust and my research with its Theology Group, where like-minded people work to make known those ancient Christian communities under severe threat.  Secondly, as a Trustee and Chaplain to the charity, Fellowship and Aid to Christians in the East whose projects at the moment are deeply connected with the plight of Christians and others in Gaza.

Reflecting on the severe restrictions and lack of protection for our sisters and brothers trying to live in the homeland of Christian beginnings has made this Easter poignant and deeply moving. It is profoundly humbling to know  Christians in Gaza are not fleeing the horrors and destruction, but like hidden leaven, remain to sing alleluia with the Risen Lord. They carry on training teachers, helping with the dreadful medical situation, they care and pray, but above all work with hope for the future, focusing on the children, bringing Christ the Light to them by truly living the Gospel together. 

These are the ‘refracted lights’ of Christ the Morning Star, that eastern Light that never sets in the hearts and love of others. We owe it to them to learn more, care more, remember that Gaza was Christian long before many of our countries knew the gospel, and has had a Christian presence all through history. The light of my faith!

Bede the Venerable lived by the Jarrow estuary, in a reflection of the Apocalypse he refers to Christ the Morning Star in terms seafarers understand, as the way we navigate our lives.

May we remember our brothers and sisters in the East and pray Bede’s words with them :

O Christ, our Morning Star,
Splendour of Light Eternal,
shining with the glory of the rainbow,
come and waken us
from the greyness of our apathy,
and renew in us your gift of hope.


Fr Robert Gibbons is a Greek-Catholic Melkite Priest and monastic affiliate Obl OSB of the Monastery of Christ our Saviour, Turvey, Bedfordshire. Now retired from academic and active pastoral work he remains part of the ministry and mission of the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church in the UK. Fr Robert is a Trustee and Chaplain of Fellowship and Aid to the Church in the East (FACE), also Chair of Living Stones of the Holy Land Trust Executive and Theology Group (LSHLT). An active ecumenist for many years, Fr Robert is an Ecumenical Canon at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford and in the All Saints Diocese and Cathedral in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  He is also a Member of the Society for Ecumenical Studies