Reflecting upon the years I’ve spent in formation with Holy Cross, I’ve realized that there is a common thread running through all our feasts and celebrations. And while “food” would certainly be a good answer, it is something much more visible and powerful: the presence of light.
It seems that whenever the Church and Holy Cross decide to commemorate or celebrate a special occasion, light and darkness play prominent roles in the flow of prayer and liturgy. This becomes evident by reviewing just this past month: Tenebrae on Holy Thursday night, when the Basilica is pitch black save for one small candle; the Easter Vigil, when the Paschal flame is wielded by thousands to banish this same darkness; and the Ordination Mass, when the newly ordained priests are presented to the Church in the full light of day.
This progression of darkness into light is not just a theatrical trick; it is a symbol that points to our own salvation history, when the human race was plunged into darkness and Christ Himself came to raise us out of it. The powerful Benedictus hymn in Luke’s Gospel proclaims, “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us; to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
During this Easter season, being “led out of darkness” should be especially meaningful for us because it simply and powerfully recalls how we were saved from eternal death and now have eternal life in Christ. Though Adam and Eve had fallen asleep under the earth, Christ, the New Man, shattered the shackles of death and awoke the human race to the splendor which God had intended for them.
As Holy Cross seminarians, we quickly learn that bringing light to banish sin’s darkness is at the core of who we are. When we proclaim “Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope,” we are not ignoring or glossing over the presence of sin and evil in the world. In fact, it is essential that we see it; if we refuse to acknowledge the existence of darkness, then we have eviscerated Christ’s light of its power. After all, if someone claims to be perfectly healthy, why would they need a physician?
Lest we become hypocritical, our Constitutions remind us, “It is not that we take sides against sinful enemies; before the Lord all of us are sinners and none is an enemy” (2:13). Thus, our mission is not to go around accusing and condemning everyone we meet, but to bring the light of God’s mercy, strength, and hope to those who need it most.
This Easter season, let us humbly ask God for the competence to recognize darkness and the courage to bring Christ to others in our words and actions.
Mr. Michael Palmer, C.S.C. is in his first year of temporary vows as a seminarian at Moreau Seminary. He and other seminarians at Moreau post twice each month for the Spes Unica Blog, sharing on their life and formation at Moreau. Meet our other men in formation, and learn more about seminary life in Holy Cross, and specifically about the Postulant Program at Moreau Seminary, which constitutes the first year of religious and priestly formation in Holy Cross for college graduates.