The sun will be darkened

It is a strange way to begin. The first person to write a gospel starts by describing the end of the world.

‘The sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will fall from heaven’. This, eventually, becomes Chapter 13 after Mark goes back to write the earlier chapters. What are we to make of this? Perhaps we imagine something like the worst outcome of the climate crisis? In 1982, Annie Dillard wrote an account of her experience of a total eclipse (cf. Google).


‘… I turned back to the sun. It was going. The sun was going, and the world   was wrong. The grasses were wrong; they were platinum. Their every detail of stem, head, and             blade shone lightless and artificially distinct as an art photographer’s platinum print.             This colour has never been seen on Earth. The hues were metallic; their finish was matte.’

This is a taste of a long description of the effect of the eclipse on her. It is a taste too, perhaps, for us of what it the end could be like. Dillard writes of the disorientation and horror of our natural world in convulsion. Another quote:

‘The sky snapped over the sun like a lens cover. The hatch in the brain slammed. … My mind was going out; my eyes were receding the way galaxies recede to the rim of space. …          You have seen photographs of the sun taken during a total eclipse. The corona fills the             print. All of those photographs were taken through telescopes. The lenses of telescopes      and cameras can no more cover the breadth and scale of the visual array than         language can cover the breadth and simultaneity of internal experience. … You see the      wide world swaddled in darkness; you see a vast breadth of hilly land, and an enormous,        distant, blackened valley; you see towns’ lights, a river’s path. …


“It can never be satisfied, the mind, never.” Wallace Stevens wrote that, and in the             long run he was right. The mind wants to live forever, or to learn a very good reason             why      not. The mind wants the world to return its love, or its awareness; the mind wants to know all the world, and all eternity, and God.’


The whole article is worth a careful read. It opens our consciousness to all that is beyond our imagination and comprehension. It is an awesome thought, both frightening and joyful. Frightening, because the onset of the end of the world seems set to be a time of unimaginable turmoil. Joyful, because we know that the gospel message is one, ultimately, of hope. The end will not be a catastrophe. It will be the moment when the ‘Son of Man’ will reveal the final triumph of God and the long foretold ‘gathering’ of his people. It is a message of consolation to close a difficult year.

14 November 2021       Sunday 33B      Dan 12:1-3       Heb 10:11…18             Mk 13:24-32


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