The Son of God wants us to know that if the sun's light fails -- even when it does -- the light of his sacrificial love will not.
''From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon" (Mt 27:45).
"When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon" (Mk 15:33).
"It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun's light failed" (Lk 23:44).
All three synoptic Gospel writers mention it in their accounts of Jesus' crucifixion. And while I suppose it could be that Matthew, Mark, and Luke took a bit of dramatic license or used the device to make a theological point, medieval Christians counted this detail of the Passion as a miracle, and some scholars argue that a handful of ancient historians seem to corroborate that an unusual darkness occurred around 33 AD. Interesting, right?
Whether this darkness was figurative or historical doesn't matter much to me. But the fact that it's included in our accounts of the crucifixion does. Why? Because this little detail has something to teach us about us, and about the God who sent his only son into the world to save us.
There is a darkness that supersedes light in a way that closes in and around: the kind that's found in caves, or beneath the sea at night, or in an elevator when the power fails for just a flash before the emergency light goes on. There are times when darkness seems to suck all the air out of a room, when it's hard to breathe because you can feel the thick presence of night on your skin like a blanket over your face. There is a kind of inner darkness that causes even the light of the sun to fail, that makes it nearly impossible to know where we are, or even who we are. And it is into this deep and impenetrable human night that Jesus descends.
He comes as the light eternal, the shining brightness of God that cannot be overcome by any darkness this world can muster. He is lifted up on a cross just outside the walls of Jerusalem, as an enduring lamppost to guide us to salvation. Still, he shows us that his way, his path to life, however, does not pass by the darkness of death but through it. The Son of God wants us to know that if the sun's light fails -- even when it does -- the light of his sacrificial love will not. It is more luminous than the light of the sun, moon, and stars we live by.
Our world knows darkness. This past year has most certainly reminded us how frightening and how crippling that darkness can be and is, and how very difficult it can be for us to feel our way through it. But these holy days, in which we contemplate once again the paschal mystery of our salvation in Christ, offer us an alternative. We do not have to remain in the clutches of death. There is a way out of the tomb, even when it is sealed and guarded.
Jesus is the only light that cannot be extinguished. There is no darkness that cannot be dispelled. The darkness that grips this world will break into dawn; it has already been shattered by the cross. When darkness falls at noon, when the light we depend on is eclipsed, we have only to look to him. His light always shines brightest when it appears that all has been lost. Lumen Christi! Deo gratias!
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.