From Darkness to Light and Back Again

Dear Friends of Kenilworth Union Church,

Jesus Christ is “The Light of the World,” and thus Christianity is a faith of dawning and splendor.  Most commonly we celebrate worship in the morning, so that every Sunday becomes a little Easter in which we greet the risen Lord at the dawning of a new day.

Twice a year, however, the Church worships at night, in darkness, to mark two significant nights in the life of our Lord: his first and his last.  So on Christmas Eve and on Maundy Thursday, we worship in darkness, with nothing more than candlelight to illumine the night.  On Christmas Eve, we begin in darkness and then as the angel’s song waxes, we light our candles to symbolize the coming of Light into a dark world.

The movement on Maundy Thursday is just the reverse of Christmas Eve: we begin with fully illumined candelabra, and gradually extinguish the light to symbolize the world’s attempt to crush and destroy that Light.  Thus the winter begins with Silent Night, and ends with Go To Dark Gethsemane.

Ironically, Christmas Eve, at the beginning of winter, when the days are short and the nights long, is a celebration of the birth of light.  And Maundy Thursday, at the end of winter, when the days grow long and the nights short (the word lent, as you know, is related to the word length), is a lament of Light’s demise.   Perhaps that’s as it should be.  Our two evening services are among the most poignant and meaningful of the liturgical year.

As I write this on Tuesday, the death toll from the ISIS terrorist attacks in Brussels is more than 30 and will probably rise, so the news this Holy Week is pretty dark, and not very Easter-like.

Some of us will need to weep with Jesus and with murdered innocents at the somber Service of Shadows on Maundy Thursday.  Others will need the invincible jubilation of the Festival of Easter, which no towering malice can possibly defeat.  Most of us will need both.

Words from James Russell Lowell’s beloved hymn sprang to mind:

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ‘tis truth alone is strong,
Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above God’s own.

William A. Evertsberg

 

Maundy Thursday
March 24, 7:30 p.m.
Service of Tenebrae
Homily: God Carves the Rotten Wood and Rides the Lame Horse

 Easter Sunday
March 27, 2016
6:30 a.m. Sunrise Sermon: Every Riven Thing
8, 9, & 10:30 a.m. Sanctuary Sermon:  Far Above All Rule and Authority