Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Full moon

I can see the full moon in the window next to my desk. It's very bright. Slivers of white light slip through the closed slats of the blind. If I move my head the roundness of it appears through the slits, like one of those old fashioned pre-movie camera gadgets where you looked through a slit and spun the drum to make the picture move.

Easter follows the full moon--the first full moon after the vernal equinox. In other words, the first full moon of spring. How delightfully pagan that this most Christian of days is subject to the cycles of the moon.

The moon grows full as the days lengthen and the smell of awakening earth weighs on the night air. The sequence leads inevitably to Holy Week and Easter.

Moonlight meant more in the days before streetlights. You could walk home by the light of the moon. It made the darkness less dangerous.

Did moonlight shine in the Garden of Gethsemane the night that Jesus was arrested, as he prayed? Did it light the streets as he was hauled from priests to Herod to PIlate? Did the light of the moon allow the crowd to gather, allow the people to see each other's faces, so that they fed off each other's fears and became an angry mob? Did the moon rise the next night over the new tomb?

Light is not benign. Sunlight can bleach fabric and burn skin. Moonlight casts sharp shadows where friends watch, wait, betray. Yet we seek light when we want to know what's true. Don't do things in secret, we say, do them in the light of day. Enlighten me. Light a candle and hope. Light makes things possible. My computer screen uses light to show me all the information on the internet.

Jesus said, I am the light of the world. But on Good Friday, he took that almighty light into darkness: the darkness that covered the whole earth, the darkness of the tomb, the impenetrable darkness of death. And brought it back triumphant on Easter Day.

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