The twenty-first day of Lent

Friday after 3 Lent

Just as every Sunday is a little Easter, every Friday is a little Good Friday. The new life that is celebrated in the light of every Sunday begins in the shadows of Friday when we remember that the Son of God "went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified." Darkness and light are persistent themes throughout the sacred history that is presented to us in the Bible, from the darkness at creation which is broken when God said, "Let there be light," to the darkness at the sixth hour on Good Friday that cannot overcome the Light of the world even as he hangs dying on the Cross. The cosmic struggle between darkness and light is represented again and again in the smaller struggles we read about in the history of God's people and each Friday in Lent we are reflecting on one of those prefiguring events.

Daniel in the Lions' Den
from Daniel 6
 

Wincenty Slendzinski, Daniel in the Lion's Den - 1859When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem; and he got down upon his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God. Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the interdict..., "That Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no heed to you, O king, or the interdict you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.... Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no interdict or ordinance which the king establishes can be changed."

Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king said to Daniel, "May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!" And a stone was brought and laid upon the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel.... Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. When he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish and said to Daniel, "O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?" Then Daniel said to the king, "O king, live for ever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong." Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of hurt was found upon him, because he had trusted in his God.

Saint Peter warns us to "Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." Daniel was surrounded by both human and inhuman adversaries--and it was not entirely clear which were worse. Unlike Samson, the darkness into which Daniel plunged was not of his own making, but it was just as real. Even the saints must endure the trials of temptation and the sorrows and losses that life brings to all people from time to time. In the same way, God did not spare his own Son, who was incarnate for the express purpose of sharing the fullness of our humanity as part of his work of redeeming us. Daniel suffered no harm in the lions' den, but he did not know that he would emerge unscathed when he was cast down. He only knew that he trusted his God entirely and that was enough.  

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