Tenebrae: A Light in the Darkness

Anyone who does not see darkness in the world is blind.  Think of the darkness in the world.

Conflict and wars all over the world, with the nation’s military spread thin throughout the regions.  And the more there is military confrontation, we find more anger and resentment continuing the cycle of violence.

Throughout the land there is great immorality.  Some places are famous for sex tourism where prostitution and human degradation are rampant.  The breakdown of traditional, natural sexual relations are turned aside in favor of alternative lifestyles.

The economy is struggling.  The gap between rich and poor is immense, almost insurmountable.  Taxes are crippling the common man.

There is corruption among the political leaders.  They persecute those who are standing up for the truth of God.  They demand loyalty to themselves above the religion.  They attempt to seize control over all aspects of freedom.  They use the power of the state to force their will on the people.

Even in religion itself, there are divisions and breaks.  Factions all claiming to speak for God contradict each other causing a great deal of confusion among the faithful.  And this leads to all kinds of chaos and anger and hatred.

There is darkness in this world.

Of course, this world to which I am referring is the world of Jesus in the 1st Century.

The Roman Empire had spread throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia.  The outer parts of the Empire were in constant conflict and tried to hold onto control of the “barbarians” on the edges.  Throughout the Empire, there was great immorality, in cities like Corinth that were famous for their prostitution.  The Greeks were very open about their embrace of homosexuality.  In fact, it was expected in ancient Athens that older men would lust after younger men.

Poverty was rampant in Galilee and Judea.  The Romans taxed the people immensely.  Herod taxed his people heavily as well.  Even the leaders in the Temple taxed the people.  It was very hard to get by for the common family.  They often had to work hard just to get their “daily bread.”

The Romans were hated so much by the Jews.  Pontius Pilate crucified men, women, and children.  The fear of the government’s reach into the people’s freedoms was overwhelming.  It would only be a few Emperors later that would force believers to worship him as a god or face death.

And in the Jewish faith there were great factions.  The Sadducees ran the Temple and were horribly corrupt, as evidenced by Jesus cleansing the holy place of the money changers.  They were also on good terms with the Romans, so they were hated by those Zealots who wanted violent revolution.  Some said that neither war with Rome nor Temple worship were needed, so they ran off to the desert to wait for the day of God’s wrath.  These were known as the Essenes.  These groups did not get along.  This led to a great deal of confusion among the Jewish people.

And this was the world of Jesus.

Sometimes we think that our age is the darkest that has ever been.  We think the corruption, immorality, violence, and Godlessness have reached their apex with our sin.  But this has always been the way of this world.  Light and darkness have been fighting for the souls of men.

This is not to minimize our present darkness.  There are things that make our age unique.  The level to which philosophical and moral nihilism has pervaded our culture is unprecedented.  But this is just another advance of the darkness in an attempt to extinguish the light.

Sometimes it feels like fighting to convert the world is like standing on the shore and trying to hold back the ocean’s tide.  But even in the overwhelming darkness, we should not give in to despair.

At the Tenebrae service, we darken our churches to remind us of the darkness of sin and death.  We remember the darkness of Christ going down into suffering and the grave.

But even in the darkness, there is light.  We might not be able to see it because we are so wrapped up in the problems of the world.  But the light is there.

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  (John 1:5)

Imagine the insurmountable task of those first Christians who had to look at the corrupt pagan Empire and the fractured people of God and still had to roll up their sleeves and bring Christ to to world.  They had to believe that victory was possible, though the odds seemed impossible.

How could 12 little lights overcome so much darkness?

By sharing that light with others.

We must have faith when the darkness comes in.  Because even though Christ went into the darkness of the grave, which we remember during this Holy Week, it was just a passing shadow until the rising of the Son.

Copyright 2014 W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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