This Sunday I would like to talk about the miniature presenting the Crucifixion of Jesus. It is the scene we are all familiar with. However the manuscript The Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry, which contains many images in vivid colours, shows the Crucifixion as if through a dark veil. Thus it refers to the Biblical account of the darkness which covered the earth when Jesus was dying of the cross. I also believe that it is a way to express a sense of loneliness and abandonment which were not only Jesus’s experience when he said in his native Aramaic language: ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachtani?’ Which means ‘My God, why have you forsaken me?’ This sense of darkness is our experience too. Think about the people who were betrayed by those whom they loved and trusted. Isn’t it darkness? Think about the people facing life threatening illnesses. Isn’t it darkness?
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! In our Second Reading we also heard a testimony of St. Paul about darkness. The Apostle Paul wrote this Letter, which was his last letter, just before his martyrdom in Rome. Listen to a couple of sentences from today’s reading: ‘The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me.’ This Letter which we have been reading in our churches last few Sundays is like Paul’s last testament. However it is not a litany of complaints or resentments. On the contrary Paul bears witness to what he already written in the Letter to the Galatians: ‘I have been crucified with Christ, and I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me.’ Having Christ living in us is not only about the power to perform miracles etc. It is about the power to relive in our own body Jesus’ way of the Cross, his Crucifixion so that the glory of the Resurrection can be ours too.
This faith St Paul expressed from the misery of his imprisonment: ‘The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear, and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.’
There was not prison release for Paul on the horizon so what kind of rescue the Apostle wrote about? It was the rescue of a lamb, which was sent to the wolves or lions, and despite ill-treatment the lamb remained a lamb. It didn’t become a wolf or a lion. Thinking about all the persecution he received from his enemies and the abandonment he experienced from his companions St Paul revealed that all those misfortunes didn’t change him for worse. What he wrote to the Galatians sometime earlier was still valid: ‘The life I now live in this body I live in faith: faith in the Son of God who loved me and who sacrificed himself for my sake.’ That’s why from the midst of the darkness of his personal situation St Paul wrote to Timothy: ‘I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, and not only to me but to all those who have longed for Jesus’ Appearing.’
The parchment with the scene of the Crucifixion from the manuscript The Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry shows darkness but the darkness covers the earth only. Above that earthly situation the author presented God the Father and a glimpse of heaven in the most vivid colours. In fact that colourful reality of heaven appears like a sunrise.
My Dear fellow sunrise awaiters. If you find yourself in a situation of darkness I announce to you the News of Great Joy: the Glory of God is already appearing for you. The New Day is coming. If your senses tell you something different cling to your faith to sense the New Day of our life with God.
‘To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.’