How Is the Night Illumined?

Lent 2014: Readings from Augustine

Considering the length of my journey, I said to myself, “Perhaps darkness shall cover me, and night shall be my light in my delight” (Ps 138,12). Night has become light for me, because in the night I despaired of being able to cross so great a sea and to travel so great a journey and to persevere and reach the farthest shore. Thanks be to him who sought me as I fled, who struck my back with blows, who called me, called me back from doom, who illumined the night for me. For as long as this life goes on, it is night. How is the night illumined? Because Christ descended into the night. Christ took on flesh from this world and illumined the night for us. There was that woman who had lost a drachma; she lit a lamp (Lk 15:8). God’s Wisdom had lost a drachma. What is a drachma? It’s a coin on which was the image of our Commander, for man was made in the image of God but then was lost. And what did that wise woman do? She lit a lamp. A lamp is made of clay, but it has a light by which a drachma may be found. The lamp of wisdom, Christ’s flesh, was made of clay, but it shines with his Word and finds those lost. “And night shall be my light in my delights.” Night has become a delight for me. Our delight is Christ. See how we are rejoicing in him now. Those shouts of yours, those joys, where do they come from if not from delight? And why such delight if not because night has been illumined, if not because Christ the Lord has been preached to us, because he sought you before you sought him, and he found you so that you would find him? “And night shall be light in my delights.” (EnPs 138, 14; PL 37, 1792-1793)

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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