Entering Into Darkness: A Spiritual Discipline

I think of my friend Steve Pitts (Minnetonka, MN) as the Platonic ideal of a Covenant pastor: irenic, thoughtful, compassionate, and personally devoted to Jesus Christ and the whole mission of the church. So I was very happy that he was willing not only to write for our Lenten devotional, but to take a reflection as significant as the one for Good Friday.

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. Then they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. (John 19:16b-18)

A few years ago, my wife and I were involved in prison ministry at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota. Medical Center is a misnomer; it is a prison… a prison designed for inmates with physical or psychiatric illnesses that are beyond the capabilities of most correctional facilities’ medical services. It is also the place where old inmates go to die, as it provides palliative and hospice care.

One weekend, along with inmates, we led a Tenebrae service in the prison chapel, found in the inner bowels of a centrally located building in the facility. The building is as far as you can get from the “outside world”; even the perimeter fences are blocked from view. Furthermore, both the building and certainly the basement chapel were windowless.

It is bleak and dismal and depressing, as I suppose prisons are meant to be. It seemed fitting for a Tenebrae service. The candles were extinguished until there was only one left. At this point, the inmate sitting next to me whispered, “It’s going to get real dark because there ain’t no light in here.”

Candles at Tenebrae service
Licensed by Creative Commons (Bev Norton)

And it did. And we sat there for a long time.

Your task — your spiritual discipline — on this Good Friday is to enter into the darkness of the Crucifixion. It’s going to get real dark because there ain’t no light in here.

Like the Tenebrae service itself, we end today’s reflection in silence. Instead of trying to find the right words — are there any? — simply meditate on the image of Jesus dying on the cross, and enter into the darkness of the Crucifixion.