On the Darkness that Overspread the Land at the Time of Our Lord’s Crucifixion.
Picture to yourself the amazement of the multitude when the sun, which had been shining brightly, suddenly withdrew its light, the heavens were darkened, and the stars appeared with a reddish glimmer. Who can describe the confusion that ensued, the angry rage of the executioners at finding themselves impeded in their brutal work, the annoyance of the Pharisees, who could no longer feast their eyes and rejoice their malicious souls with the sight of our Lord’s sufferings, the increasing alarm of the people who, as the exterior darkness closed more thickly around, by an interior illumination saw more clearly to their horror the crime whereof they had been guilty? Mingle in imagination in the multitude on Calvary and meditate upon that strange darkness.
1st. The darkness aggravated our Lord’s sufferings. Have you ever observed how much, in sickness or deep affliction, darkness affects the unhappy sufferer, how oppressive it is, what depression it causes? How earnestly during the long, dark hours of night the sick man longs for the first rays of the rising sun; what a wonderful relief and alleviation he seems to experience when the returning day once more banishes the grim shades of night! Now it was at midday that our Lord was crucified, and yet the sun, brightly shining in its meridian glory, must needs veil its light in order that our Lord, drinking to the dregs the chalice of suffering, might endure the further torment caused by the darkness which in the ordinary course of nature He would have been spared. Marvel, my soul, at this and admire the mystery of divine charity! God works miracles to mitigate the sufferings you, a sinner, endure, and He also works miracles for your sake to enhance the agony of Jesus, His own Son. Think of this when in the dark, weary night you lie tortured with pain and unrest, and you will find it easier to bear your trial.
2d. Consider the mystic signification of this darkness. Jesus hangs upon the cross to achieve a victory over the kingdom of darkness. For that reason this darkness descends once more upon Him, the Light of the World, with the intention of quenching that light. But O marvel! The powers of darkness may indeed have rejoiced with a malicious joy at that natural darkness because it added to the physical torture of the world’s Redeemer; but our Lord, by bearing it patiently, conquered the spiritual darkness, the evil that prevails in this corrupt world. For the works of evil are in their nature essentially works of darkness; sin darkens the understanding and leads to everlasting night in hell. Look up, my soul, in compunction of heart to your crucified and suffering Lord, suffering in darkness; beseech Him to grant you the light of His grace, the grace which He purchased for you in that hour of gloom. Realize what a terrible reproach it would be for you, enough in itself to make hell intolerable if, in spite of Christ’s patient endurance of the darkness that overspread the earth when He hung upon the cross, you were doomed to pine in misery, and that through your own fault, in the exterior darkness, the everlasting blackness of hell.
3d. Consider the gloom that weighed upon the soul of our Lord during His crucifixion. Alas! that external darkness was not the worst which Jesus had to bear. When the darkness increased all around, and a vague terror took possession of every mind and a strange silence brooded over the multitude, the depression caused by this gloom invaded our Lord’s soul also. Alone and comfortless He hung upon the cross, suffering all and everything that a poor individual could suffer in the uttermost abandonment, without help or consolation human or divine; such pain as His no words can describe. By this spiritual anguish, this hour of interior darkness which wrung from our Lord the bitter cry: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” He both bore the painful penalty of our real abandonment by God which we have brought upon ourselves by our own fault, and He also won for us the power to keep from making shipwreck completely in the extremity of our misery when we appear to be forsaken by God. But when wandering in the desert during this interior night, which frequently is permitted to close in upon the souls of those who love God for their trial, and which overtakes every one of us at the hour of death, we are now no longer alone, for Jesus, the Light, the Way, the Truth has also passed along this road and imparted a blessing to it. He has subjugated its terrors, and for our consolation and support He has erected His cross in the wilderness of the world. Meditate on this further signification of the darkness under the oppression of which our Lord lay prostrate for three hours, and let it be to you a rich fund of consolation.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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