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The Darkest Day

At the beginning of the hushed reverence of Holy Saturday, a similar scene plays out in monasteries all around the world. A figure stirs. A monk rises from his place amongst the choir. He walks towards a wooden podium. While the Church collectively imagines Christ's descent into the underworld, this monk will become the voice of an ancient homily, a poignant echo across time.

The silence in the Abbey deepens as the monk clears his throat. He will sing of a great stillness blanketing the earth, of Christ traversing the depths of Hades to free humanity from the grip of sin and death. He begins:

"Something strange is happening. there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness..."

The haunting chant unfolds, a dramatic narrative of Christ seeking Adam, the first man, like a lost sheep. It speaks of the shackles of death being broken, the darkness dispelled by the light of Christ's victory.

Surprisingly, these themes harmonize with a seemingly unexpected source – Pearl Jam's iconic song "Black." While the song remains a powerful lament for a lost love, the raw emotion and themes of brokenness resonate on a deeper level when viewed through the lens of Easter.

Emerging in 1992, Pearl Jam's "Black" stood in stark contrast to the fading era of glam metal, marked by flashiness and superficiality. The song's raw vulnerability was something completely new on the radio. Deemed too personal by singer Eddie Vedder for a music video and marketing push, "Black" nevertheless rocketed to No. 3 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Critics lauded its stripped-down beauty, particularly praising the band's moving acoustic performance on MTV Unplugged.

The song is eerily fitting as a companion piece to the ancient homily mentioned above. The "empty canvas" and "untouched sheets of clay" that begin the song can be seen as a reflection of creation before the Fall. The rest of the song, filled with a sense of loss and longing, evokes the fractured relationship between God and humanity. Follow along as we delve into a meditation on the lyrics of "Black."

Note: Lyrics appear in bold, meditations in italics.

Sheets of empty canvas

In the beginning, the world was but a blank page. With strokes of loving kindness, I painted stars into being and molded mountains with hands both gentle and strong. But My divine heart longed for companionship, a reflection of my boundless joy. And so came you, My most precious creations.

Untouched sheets of clay
Were laid spread out before me
As her body once did

Do you remember the dawn of your existence? Your newly formed soul, untouched and radiant, resembled a smooth expanse of clay awaiting my hand. Your laughter echoed through the trees, carried on the wings of pure delight. The bond between us was unlike anything the universe had ever known – a bond of Creator and creation, of Father and beloved child.

All five horizons
Revolved around her soul
As the earth to the sun

My dearest Eve, radiant as the newborn sun, you once held My world in perfect balance. Like a celestial queen crowned with stars, you were clothed in my purest light. Yet, even amidst this harmony, a subtle discord lingered in the air. Your laughter, once echoing like birdsong, carried a hesitant note within it. The boundless curiosity that danced within you if seeking a flame beyond My own steady light.

Now the air I tasted and breathed
Has taken a turn

The breath of life I gave you, once pure as morning air, now carries a bitter taste. Rebellion clings to it, a serpent's venom tainting our communion. The innocence we shared lies fractured. This transformation, born of free will, grieves me. Your spirit, once alight with my presence, now flickers with shadows.

all I taught her was everything
I know she gave me all that she wore

The patterns of the stars, the secret language of birds, the way sunlight painted masterpieces on the forest floor... all I taught you was simply this: everything. I poured knowledge into your open spirit, a joyful torrent meant to fuel your growth. And you, in turn, shared your boundless wonder with me. Oh, those days when my heart echoed the joy of your discoveries.

And now my bitter hands
Chafe beneath the clouds
Of what was everything

A bitterness grew, an invisible resistance hanging where joy once bloomed. Did you feel it, child? A tightening of the unseen cords that bound us? The guiding hands of my angels, filled with blessings and the purest love, were rendered useless by this growing friction between us. I reached out to you with many graces, yet still, your path diverged from mine. The way you tread now is yours to walk, and my heart breaks knowing the trials that surely await.

Oh the pictures have
All been washed in black
Tattooed everything

The innocence we shared now bears the tattoo of choice, a bittersweet knowledge of good and evil. This transformation, though it grieves me, is the burden of free will – the precious and terrible gift I bestowed upon you. It marks your spirit's passage into light and shadow, where beauty exists alongside struggle.

I take a walk outside
I'm surrounded by some kids at play
I can feel their laughter, so why do I sear?

My gaze often falls upon your children, Eve. Their games echo a world before the fall – a world bathed in golden light. Yet, a pang of sorrow pierces me. They inherit a fragmented world, and the trials they'll face will scar them. How I wish to shield them, but to do so would deny the very gift of choice.

Oh and twisted thoughts that spin round my head
How quick the sun can drop away

My heart aches as I see these children grow old, the line between innocence and understanding blurring with each sunrise. All their whispers, triumphs, fears, even the wayward thoughts that lead them astray...they become intertwined with My own infinite mind. How swiftly innocence fades, replaced by the weight of consequence.

And now my bitter hands cradle broken glass
Of what was everything
All the pictures had all been washed in black
Tattooed everything
Grünewald, Crucifixion (hand)

My omnipotent hands cradle the shattered remnants of a world fractured by broken choices. All those vibrant pictures have been washed in black... the tendrils of darkness, born of defiance, spread like a plague. Yet even in the shattered fragments of this world, I see a way... a path toward redemption. It is a costly path, one that will pierce even My divine hands. But it is a path paved with the boundless love I have for you... the same love that brought forth creation itself.

All the love gone bad

Love, the purest essence of my being, was meant to illuminate your path. Yet, dark detours taken, words uttered, promises broken – they leave stains upon the heart of the world.

Turned my world to black

The light I created for you, the vibrant hues of creation, now fade to an oppressive darkness. The paradise I nurtured, a symphony of colors, now hangs heavy with a suffocating gloom. Even the stars, once shimmering diamonds scattered across the velvet night, seem to have dimmed, their light choked by the rising tide of sorrow.

Tattooed all I see
Fra Angelico, The Mocking of Christ

The thorns of your mistakes wound Me. The consequences of your choices, they bleed into my very sight. I can look nowhere without seeing the reflection of what is lost, of what has been damaged. It is as though the world's brokenness, its refusal to commune with Me, has become a blindfold over My eyes.

All that I am

This pain alters Me, not in being, but in experience. My boundless love, My joy in creation, it now exists alongside the echoes of sorrow.

All I'll be

I am not merely your Creator, but the wellspring of love. And to see that love wither, to see their potential for connection and joy turn inward, it... seems almost to diminish even Me. I am God, almighty and all-powerful, yet how can I feel Myself complete without seeing the reflection of My love shine in your hearts?

I know someday you'll have a beautiful life
I know you'll be a star in somebody else's sky
But why can't it be mine

The promise of Eden rings deep within your broken spirit. A world unmarred by sin, where creation rejoices in harmony. That was always meant to be your song. Yet shadows were chosen over My steady light. My heart breaks. Why this path of pain, this pursuit of lesser things? My arms remain open; the path home awaits. Yet, oh child, why?

We belong together

From the last part of the ancient homily refrenced above:

Enough. Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly Paradise. I will not restore you to that Paradise, but will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The Bridal Chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open.

The Kingdom of Heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

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