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Easter and the Eclipse

Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

So our choir sang on Good Friday during the veneration of the Cross. The Reproaches are sung first, but more music is needful so other hymns are sung, of which the most haunting is the spiritual “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” Other verses are easily added: Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

There will be a solar eclipse today, April 8, and the “path of totality” will include major cities such as Dallas, Indianapolis, and Montreal. Ontario’s Niagara peninsula is expecting a million visitors to view the eclipse and has declared a precautionary state of emergency to deal with the congestion. Several American states and counties have done the same. Many offices and schools are closing.

If the sun really did not shine it would be a severe emergency, but it would have to be for a lot longer than the few minutes of an eclipse. The sun actually “refuses” to shine quite often. Nightfall comes each day.

The Gospels record that there was darkness across the land from noon until three o’clock on Good Friday, as Jesus hung on the cross (Matt. 27:45, Mark 15:33, Luke 23:44–45). It wasn’t a solar eclipse—it was the wrong phase of the moon for that—and eclipses don’t last that long in any case. There may have been a lunar eclipse—the “blood moon”—but while evocative, that is a different matter.

The eclipse this year falls at the end of the Easter Octave, and Easter is the great liturgical battle between light and darkness. The coincidence of the eclipse and Easter is an invitation to think about light and darkness in the way that Christians distinctively do.

Read more at First Things 

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