Holy Thursday is not only the day of the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist, whose splendor bathes all else and in some ways draws it to itself. To Holy Thursday also belongs the dark night of the Mount of Olives, to which Jesus goes with his disciples; the solitude and abandonment of Jesus, who in prayer goes forth to encounter the darkness of death; the betrayal of Judas, Jesus’ arrest and his denial by Peter; his indictment before the Sanhedrin and his being handed over to the Gentiles, to Pilate. Let us try at this hour to understand more deeply something of these events, for in them the mystery of our redemption takes place.
Jesus goes forth into the night. Night signifies lack of communication, a situation where people do not see one another. It is a symbol of incomprehension, of the obscuring of truth. It is the place where evil, which has to hide before the light, can grow. Jesus himself is light and truth, communication, purity and goodness. He enters into the night. Night is ultimately a symbol of death, the definitive loss of fellowship and life. Jesus enters into the night in order to overcome it and to inaugurate the new Day of God in the history of humanity.
Homily, Holy Thursday, 2012
Reflection – Having looked at the Easter Vigil homily these past days, I want to jump back to Holy Thursday and see what Pope Benedict had to say there. He talked about light at Easter, the light of creation, the light of the resurrection, the light of the Church in the symbolism of the Paschal Candle.
Here he begins, since we’re back in the Triduum and its more somber tone, by talking about darkness. It is such an elemental symbol, a basic human experience. Every small child can tell you about the dark and what it holds. Night terrors, the monster under the bed, the crack of light under the door which is much too far away to bring any solace—I remember it all too well. We laugh about it when we outgrow that stage, but it was no joke at the time.
Darkness and what it holds. In a season of light and beauty (Easter, yes, but also the beauty of a Canadian spring and all that entails) we carry something of that dark within ourselves. There is incomprehension and non-communication in our minds; there can be evil growing in our hearts; there is certainly death in our lives, even in the radiant light of an April day and amidst the chanting of Easter alleluias. The monster under the bed doesn’t so much lapse into non-existence when we turn eight; he merely takes up residence in our hearts and bides his time there.
So it is good to hold onto the one salient point in all this. Namely, Jesus enters the night. He enters it, and himself takes up residence there. And so, as we sing at Easter, the night becomes as bright as the day, while remaining night nonetheless.
Deep mysteries here, deep elemental mysteries. We all know about darkness and night; we all know about the plain light of day, the ‘little light of mine’ that does shine for a time. But this strange plunging of Light into The Dark, this strange penetration of Night by Day that leaves the night dark still but beginning to pulsate with a new radiance—this is deep stuff here.
And this is the deep stuff we are invited to contemplate in the Easter season. Jesus has come; He has plunged into the deepest darkest dankest bowels of the night and the death it brings to us. He has confronted the monster under the bed. And he has done something there—and that is the great mystery that each human being must enter. What has Jesus done there? How has he conquered and tamed my monster? And how am I to live in the night that has become as bright as the day, while remaining night yet? Stay tuned…