The third day of 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 will reflect on one of those prefiguring events.

Cain and Abel
Genesis 4:8-16

Cain said to Abel his brother, "Let us go out to the field." And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" And the LORD said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." Cain said to the LORD, my punishment is more than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me this day away from the ground; and from thy face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me." Then the LORD said, "Not so! If any one slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Cain Kills Abel - Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)

Although God warned Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden that they would die if they were to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it is not their sin that leads to the very first death of a human being. In time, Adam and Eve do die, but the first time death darkens the human experience it is by murder. Up until this point, even though human relationships with God have been broken, the human family has maintained the ties that bind. However, a break does come, and when it does it is violent and absolute. Cain and Abel are not merely estranged from one another. Abel is dead and Cain is completely cut off--not only from his family, but from God as well, a fate that he says is too much for him to bear. Abel lies in the darkness of the grave. Cain lives, but it is a life in the shadows, a life that is even worse than death, hiding from God, hiding from family and friends, hiding, ultimately, from itself because it cannot bear to face the dark and hopeless creature it has become.

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