Clearing the Heart to See the Truth

Darkness His Only Friend

(The following is an re-posting of an experience I had when visiting the Holy Land. For this Triduum, will you keep darkness from being Jesus’ only friend?)

Some scholars call the Holy Land the ‘Fifth Gospel,’ because when visiting there you are walking into the bible itself. The only word that I use when I reminisce about my trip to the Holy Land last summer is ‘incredible.’ This is the most appropriate term to describe my experience. I spent much of the time unable to wrap my mind around what I was seeing. Touching the slab where our dear Lord’s body was laid in the tomb of the Holy Sepulcher—incredible! Sitting down on the green grass where Jesus multiplied the fish and the loaves—incredible! Receiving the Eucharist at the Church built on the ruins of St. Peter’s home in Capharnaum while looking out of the church’s window  to gaze at the very synagogue where Jesus first taught about eating his flesh and drinking his blood—incredible!

Yet, of all of the incredible experiences that I had, the one that sticks out as most incredible is not even mentioned explicitly in the Gospels. Although it may not be explicit, it is nevertheless most probable. The night of His arrest, Jesus is taken to the palace of Caiaphas, the high priest. As high priest, Caiaphas would have been selected from Jewish ‘high society;’ from a notable family of the priestly cast. He thus enjoyed a lavish mansion as his domicile. Once brought to Caiaphas, Jesus was interrogated, beaten, accused, judged, and condemned by the laws of the leading Pharisees. This all happens in the dark of night so the charade of these Temple leaders would remain hidden, thus avoiding a riot with the people who hailed Jesus as the Son of David not four days before. After determining Jesus’ fate, however, Caiaphas has to figure out what to do with Jesus until sun-up, when he and the Sanhedrin can take him to Pontius Pilate and see about getting the Roman governor to enact their sentence.

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Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, praying in the cistern

Underneath Caiaphas’ palace archeologists have excavated an ancient, craggy cistern, dry and empty at the time of Caiaphas. According to ancient Jewish records, this cistern was used by Caiaphas to incarcerate prisoners for short periods of time. They could be lowered by rope down into the darkened depths and left there for as long as the High Priest deemed, as there was no way out unless retrieved by the rope. It was in this pit that Jesus would have been lowered. Beaten, bloodied, left in the darkness as his only friend, He was all alone in the gloom awaiting the remainder of his cruel fate.

On the remains of the High Priest’s palace today is the church of St. Peter Gallicantu (which means, ‘Of the Cock Crowing.’) The ancient cistern is still there, relatively unchanged since the time of Jesus. Thus, standing in the bottom of that dank pit, I was gazing at the very spot where Jesus lay on Holy Thursday night 2000 years ago. With the exception of the lighting, the stairs, and the pilgrims, the cavity remains as it was for Him. This is one of the few places I visited where the setting has changed little since the time of our Lord. This is why it was so incredible. I saw and touched what my Lord saw and touched on the night of his betrayal. I truly entered into His passion. I was overwhelmed with emotion. What would this place be like the night He was lowered here?

I found myself lost in a conflicting reflection. What would I have done had I been here with Jesus that night? What would I have said to Him? I would have wanted to say something like, ‘Lord, I am here to help. Quick, let me untie you. I found a way out. Let’s go!’ Had I accomplished that deed, I would remain unredeemed and unsaved today.  No, the only response I could give would be to leave Him there, to speak with Him, perhaps to cradle His head in my lap rather than the rocky floor, but nevertheless to leave Him there to await His death.

Traditionally, Psalm 88 is read aloud while visiting this holy site. I won’t quote it at length here, but a few verses seem appropriate.

“…I am reckoned among those who go down to the Pit;

I am a man who has no strength, like one forsaken among the dead;

…you have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep…

Your have caused my companions to shun me;

You have made me a thing of horror to them.

I am shut in so that I cannot escape, my eyes grow dim through sorrow…

Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your saving help in the land

of forgetfulness?

But O Lord, I cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes to you…darkness is my only friend.”

 

O Lord, may I be your friend here in this pit, here in this darkened world. May I stand up for you before men who wish to crucify you again, that you may remember me when you come into your Kingdom. May I comfort you with word and with deed; in the way I live my life for you!

 

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7 Responses to “Darkness His Only Friend”

  1. Nancy kronoshek says:

    Beautiful reflection Troy, I will recall it when I am there in June.

  2. prasad says:

    Dear Troy,
    your blog is amazing and I only have lot of prayer and thankfulness for all the good works you do through this ‘Incredible’ blog. May our Lord continue to bless your work.

    Does that ‘Incredible’ pit you mentioned above, where our Lord might have been thrown by Caiphas, is it similar to what is shown in the movie ‘the Passion of the Christ”? And our Blessed Mother above peeps from above with a tender look at her beloved Son.

    Thank you once again, and all the best with God’s abundant blessings,

    prasad

    • Profile photo of Troy Hinkel Troy Hinkel says:

      Prasad,
      thank you for your kind comments. I will share them with John-Mark, my co-blogger. Keep us in your prayers, as you are in ours!
      God bless,
      Troy

  3. Sara Moraille says:

    Beautiful reflection Troy. What an amazing place to visit. I think I’d want to be there alone in silence for awhile to take it all in and feel close to Him. It’s a blessing you were still able to feel that even with a group visit. But wouldn’t it be amazing to linger there…

    • Profile photo of Troy Hinkel Troy Hinkel says:

      Hi, Sarah, I agree with you, this is a place to linger in silence, but since visiting there, I have been able to linger in silence many times in my interior prayer life. I pray that you and Jacques be able to go to the Holy Land someday!

  4. Sandy Scherschligt says:

    Wow Troy, this is an awesome reflection. With your permission I’d like to include it in my next SOF Meditation Book. I will include a link to your blog site if that’s okay with you??

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