This is the day when everything is silent. We can go about the day not giving much of a thought to it–just seeing it as the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Yet monumental things were happening in the spiritual realm. Christ descended to hell to set captives free.
This still has meaning for us. So often we think nothing is happening in our own spiritual lives, yet God is about monumental things. Have hope in the Unseen.
Christ descended into “Hell” and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light. Suffering and torment is still terrible and well-nigh unbearable. Yet the star of hope has risen–the anchor of the heart reaches the very throne of God. Instead of evil becoming unleashed within man, the light shines victorious: suffering–without ceasing to be suffering–becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise. (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi)
And for those of you who feel that you are living “in darkness and in the shadow of death”, take heart, for you are exactly who he desires to visit. From an ancient homily on Holy Saturday:
Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives . . .
Last night we lit the last of the Twelve Days candles. Most folks I know are done with Christmas, but not in our house. We will soon take down most of the decorations, but we leave our lights up until February 2–40 days after Christmas. Every year I reblog the post below to remind you why I think it’s such a good idea. Join us!
When I found out that St. Peter’s keeps their Christmas tree and crèche up in the square until February 2, I decided we would keep our crèche in the chapel and all our Christmas lights up until then as well. I always felt gypped that there were not 40 days to celebrate after Christmas as there are after Easter. Then I discovered that February 2, the Presentation of the Lord (Candlemas), is indeed 40 days after Christmas. So, to me, it makes total sense to keep those Christmas lights lit. If you drive past our house right now, you will still see our candle lights in the windows. I personally love clusters of little white lights. When we begin the Salve Regina at the end of night prayer, the guitarist dims all the lights in our chapel. During this season, that leaves only the Christmas lights and the sole candle lit before the icon of the Mother of God. Yet the chapel still seems bright.
In the beginning of his Christmas message, Pope Benedict spoke of how God “loves to light little lights.” I found that particularly encouraging as I thought of all of us who are desiring to be God’s witnesses to hope. May it encourage you as well, and may you call it to mind whenever you see Christmas lights and candles:
THE LITURGY OF THE MASS AT DAWN REMINDED US THAT THE NIGHT IS NOW PAST, THE DAY HAS BEGUN; THE LIGHT RADIATING FROM THE CAVE OF BETHLEHEM SHINES UPON US. . . .
AT FIRST, BESIDE THE MANGER IN BETHLEHEM, THAT “US” WAS ALMOST IMPERCEPTIBLE TO HUMAN EYES. AS THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE RECOUNTS, IT INCLUDED, IN ADDITION TO MARY AND JOSEPH, A FEW LOWLY SHEPHERDS WHO CAME TO THE CAVE AFTER HEARING THE MESSAGE OF THE ANGELS. THE LIGHT OF THAT FIRST CHRISTMAS WAS LIKE A FIRE KINDLED IN THE NIGHT. ALL ABOUT THERE WAS DARKNESS, WHILE IN THE CAVE THERE SHONE THE TRUE LIGHT “THAT ENLIGHTENS EVERY MAN” (JN 1.9). AND YET ALL THIS TOOK PLACE IN SIMPLICITY AND HIDDENNESS, IN THE WAY THAT GOD WORKS IN ALL OF SALVATION HISTORY. GOD LOVES TO LIGHT LITTLE LIGHTS, SO AS THEN TO ILLUMINATE VAST SPACES.
May we allow God to light each of us,
“Christ descended into ‘Hell’ and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light. Suffering and torment is still terrible and well-nigh unbearable. Yet the star of hope has risen–the anchor of the heart reaches the very throne of God. Instead of evil becoming unleashed within man, the light shines victorious: suffering–without ceasing to be suffering–becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise.” (Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi)
Is it just me, or do temptations increase during Lent? And what to do with them? I think we all can be afraid of temptations. Our Pope Emeritus suggests a simple way to deal with them:
“. . . to a disciple who expressed the desire to discover ‘the causes of the different temptations that had assailed him’, Barsanufius replied: ‘Brother John, do not be afraid of the temptations that arise against you to put you to the test, do not be determined in trying to understand what it is about; rather cry out the name of Jesus: “Jesus, help me!” And he will hear you because ‘the Lord is near to all who call upon him.’ Do not be discouraged, run with ardor and you will reach your end in Christ Jesus, our Lord!”
And these words of the ancient Father are also valid for us. In our difficulties, problems, temptations, we must not simply engage in a theoretical reflection from whence do they come? — but must react positively, invoking the Lord, maintaining a living contact with the Lord. Beyond that, we must cry out the name of Jesus: ‘Jesus, help me!’ ANd we may be sure that he listens to us, as he is near to those who seek him. Let us not be discouraged; rather let us run with ardor–as this Father says–and we too will reach life, Jesus, the Lord.” (Benedict XVI)
“God is always with us. Even in the dark nights of our life, he does not abandon us. Even in the difficult moments, he is present. And even in the final night, in the final solitude in which no one will be able to accompany us, in the night of death, the Lord does not abandon us. He accompanies us, as well, in this last solitude of the night of death. And for this reason, we can be confident: We are never alone. The goodness of God is always with us.” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)