On the Darkness that Overspread the Land at the Time of Our Lord’s Crucifixion

The Crucifixion, 1758
Pierre-Paul Prud’hon
The Louvre, Paris

A Lenten Reflection for Tuesday in Holy Week from Holy Cross Publications

PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.

My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

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 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.

PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.

My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

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