Easter Darkness Before the Dawn: Remembering the Light of Life

Post by Contributing Writer, Bethany

Together they wrapped Jesus’ body in a long linen cloth with the spices, as is the Jewish custom of burial. The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation before the Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. John 19:40-42

When I was very young, my mom practiced a tradition of leaving off all the electric lights in our home between Good Friday and Easter morning, to remind our hearts of the days and nights that Christ’s body laid still in the grave.

I remember vividly one late afternoon when I was four or five. Just home from an afternoon of errands, my mom set her grocery bags down and then brought tapers and matches out to the table and simply arranged a collection of candlesticks. If memory serves, she dug out a few old pie tins, rigging them up to reflect the light toward the dark corners of the room.

Being little, I had only a few short hours to be awake during the evening darkness, but the memories of such a still and somber atmosphere made a deep impression.

As an adult, in the years that my husband and I have shared our home and holidays, we have aimed to incorporate the same ritual, and I anticipate sharing the tradition with my own small children when they someday join our family.

Following Good Friday service a few years ago, I thought back to the extinguished church candles and icons shrouded in black cloth. I made my way home, dwelling on a death and a payment that I could never have made.

As I came through the door, my hand almost instinctively reached for the light switch. Then I stopped myself.

I set my things down, following my mother’s footsteps, and went for the matches and candles.

Sitting in that quiet room — in an atmosphere of mourning tinged with tentative expectation — questions passed through my heart:

What was it like for Jesus’ friends in those hours after his death? Holding on to particles of hope, perhaps, but mostly overwhelmed at the sadness and injustice of the world and the loss of a friend unlike any other.

What ultimate darkness would the world have been left to were it not for such a period of pain and loss and sacrifice?

We believers have the beautiful gift of knowing how the story carried on…knowing how the time quickly revealed a new vision for life: such amazing forgiveness for me and for you and for all, and such a beautiful picture of friendship and love.

But we would do well to pause at the end of Holy Week.

To still our hearts and homes and linger in the weight of the sacrifice.

To more deeply appreciate the gift we receive.

As we anticipate the coming of Easter morning and Christ, the resurrection, the life, the LIGHT of the world, perhaps reflect as a family: flip the switches off, strike a match, and contemplate the Father’s sorrow and sacrifice.

With the rising of the sun on Easter morning and the joyful celebration of eternal life, may the return of electricity echo the message a mom once told a little girl with freckles and a wondering heart:

“He is the light of the world…”

…Breathe Easter now; you serged fellowships,
You vigil-keepers with low flames decreased,
God shall o’er-brim the measures you have spent
With oil of gladness, for sackcloth and frieze…

-Gerard Manley Hopkins
Excerpt: Easter Communion

Bethany Rydmark is an eighth generation Oregonian, a landscape architect, and a kitchen-tinkering, garden-dreaming, Food-Group-hosting, home-making wife and friend. She lives in Portland, Oregon and shares her appetite for equitable, sustainable, and meaningful food at Sustainable Food for Thought.

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