At Christmas we celebrate the Lord’s birth as the coming of the light: ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.’ (Isaiah 9:2) The Lord did, by His birth, bring light and clarity. Yet His deepest work in removing darkness, took place at the very end of His life.
When the Lord was crucified, there was darkness in the land from the sixth to the ninth hour, meaning from noon until three pm, normally the brightest, warmest time of the day. (Matthew 27:45) This literal darkness depicts the inner spiritual darkness that reigned at that time. (Arcana Caelestia 1839:11; Apocalypse Explained 401:15) It was a darkness of evil and falsity that was so great that when the God of heaven and earth came down, humanity rejected Him and tried to kill Him. It was a darkness so great that when the Lord on the cross looked into the humanity that He took on from Mary, He cried out from His not yet Divine part, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
‘The Lord came on earth, not for His own sake, but for ours.’
The Lord came on earth, not for His own sake, but for ours. If He had not come and undergone temptation, nobody could have been saved, including all those who had lived since the fall of the Most Ancient Church! (Arcana Caelestia 1676:3) So there was a dire need, a need depicted by that darkness, which the Lord fought against all His life and then in a final clash on the cross.
Part of celebrating Easter involves honouring the Lord for engaging in temptation for our sakes. So let’s look at what that means. A temptation is an attack on a love, and the Lord’s love was
for the salvation of the human race. The Lord was born a spiritual celestial man (Arcana Caelestia 4592:3) which means He was born at the level of the highest angels. So He was not fighting for His own salvation. Instead He fought to realise His deepest love, which was for our salvation. The darkness He experienced on the cross, was the darkness of looking into the soul of humanity and doubting that we could be saved. At that time even the angels agreed and in these last temptations even they fought against Him. (Arcana Caelestia 4287:2, 4295:2,3) So you can imagine how utterly alone the Lord was, when even the best of the angels were ready to forsake humanity and urge Him, no doubt lovingly, to give up. It is important to know that the Lord plumbed the depths of depravity that humanity is capable of on the cross, and yet He kept on fighting.
We also celebrate Easter because we know the Lord did not give in. He fought on to the end and a short time later was able to say, “It is finished” and give up the spirit. (John 19:30) When He did this, the veil of the temple was torn in two, which symbolises that the Lord was no longer hidden, but we could see Him in light in His Divine Human. (Arcana Caelestia 2576:5) You can imagine that place in the temple that never saw the light of day now open to be seen, and that is an image of the way the Lord, by overcoming on the cross, showed Himself and His path of salvation to us.
Easter morning was full of light. It began with the dawning of a new day when the women came to the tomb. On Good Friday we heard descriptions of darkness, but now we read of a new day, of angels in shining garments, of promises of hope and life. We hear “Do not be afraid” and “Rejoice”. That joy and hope was much greater because it contrasts with the darkness and the feeling of loss that had come right before it. And it carried with it a charge to go and make disciples of all the nations, a far greater purpose than had been given before.
No time in history has been as dark, and no force has attacked anyone as forcefully as the hells (and the angels in their unwitting care) did the Lord. He overcame and because He did so, He showed us that He can overcome in any situation. Nothing we face is too awful or too hopeless. “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)