Darkness is my closest friend

Kaiaphas was the Chief Priest in Jerusalem around AD 30. Beside his house which faced the Mount of Olives, was a long flight of steps than ran from Mount Zion to the base of the Kidron Valley.

It was down these steps that Christ would have walked after the Last Supper to the Garden of Gethsemane to begin his vigil and await his inquisitors. When he was arrested he would have been forcibly taken back up these steps to the house of Kaiaphas to face his interrogation.

The site of the house has been accurately identified and on the lower levels there are places that served effectively as dungeons. One of them was a cell that was a pit from which there was no escape. Whilst this was only rediscovered relatively recently, it was known in Byzantine times as we find numerous Byzantine crosses carved into the limestone as marks of reverence.

As I stood in that pit today, looking up at the circular exit in the roof which was the only way in and out, I thought of the mixed emotions running through Christ’s mind, who knew his own fate, as I listened to Psalm 88, the psalm of prisoners:

Lord, you are the God who saves me;

day and night I cry out to you.

May my prayer come before you;

turn your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles

and my life draws near to death.

I am counted among those who go down to the pit;

I am like one without strength.

I am set apart with the dead,

like the slain who lie in the grave,

whom you remember no more,

who are cut off from your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit,

in the darkest depths.

Your wrath lies heavily on me;

you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.

You have taken from me my closest friends

and have made me repulsive to them.

I am confined and cannot escape;

my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day;

I spread out my hands to you.

Do you show your wonders to the dead?

Do their spirits rise up and praise you?

Is your love declared in the grave,

your faithfulness in Destruction?

Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,

or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

But I cry to you for help, Lord;

in the morning my prayer comes before you.

Why, Lord, do you reject me

and hide your face from me?

From my youth I have suffered and been close to death

I have borne your terrors and am in despair.

Your wrath has swept over me

your terrors have destroyed me.

All day long they surround me like a flood;

they have completely engulfed me.

You have taken from me friend and neighbour —

darkness is my closest friend.


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