Light shining in the darkness – an eclipse on the Annunciation

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Image courtesy Margaret Maurer (used with permission)

The day after Easter, I left for Austin, Texas with my family to see the eclipse along the path of totality. My parents, having witnessed this in 2017, invited me shortly thereafter and have been pretty enthusiastic evangelists for the event since then. Having only seen partial eclipses, I admit that I wasn’t entirely convinced that this was all that it was cracked up to be. Added to that was the forecast here in Texas: thunderstorms all day on April 8, with thick cloud cover anticipated well before the eclipse was to take place (~1:30 pm CST).

But having come all this way from Washington after all, we decided to give it the old college try. We made our way to the small town of Dripping Springs and – after enjoying a hour or so of the eclipse fair the town was putting on! – found a nice set of bleachers to witness whatever we could see as the moment drew near. And the Lord did not disappoint!

Though the predicted clouds did indeed turn up, they cleared up for a total of probably 10 minutes – the perfect 10 minutes, starting with an unobstructed view of the final moments of the moon’s movement into place. And with my special eclipse glasses still on, my first impression seemed to be accurate – I literally couldn’t see what the big deal was! Thankfully, my mom snapped me out of it as, between her own delighted exclamations, she called out “take off your glasses – take off your glasses!”. Rather sheepishly, I did.

And just like that, the splendor of the moment was laid bare. The moon, for that oh-so-brief period of three minutes – blocked out the majority of the sun’s light. We sat in a strange, almost mystical twilight – not exactly dark, but an odd dimness that was everywhere I looked. But of course, the real beauty was found in looking up at the sun.

A silhouette against the sun, the moon enabled us to look directly at it without fear of damage to our eyes – and because the sun’s brightness was mostly blocked, we could see more details rather than less. Apparently this eclipse was special due to increased thermal activity – and those flares were visible around the bottom edges of the moon, giving the appearance of a ruby gem1 at the 5 o’clock position of the wavering ring of sunlight around the moon. That ring of sunlight was distinct and sharp – we all marveled at how clearly we could make out both the moon’s shape and the shifting rays from the son. For three brief minutes, we could gaze directly at the sun and wonder at its glory. And so we did.

By virtue of having landed during Holy Week this year, the solemnity of the Annunciation was transferred to this same day. One of the words of the archangel Gabriel rings out as especially appropriate: “overshadow”. Despite the miracle Gabriel is describing with this concept, we often see it as a negative. Being overshadowed calls to mind a zero-sum game – one person shines while another is diminished. Whether it is at work, in our family, or among our friends, being overshadowed by someone else is not something to be sought after. But Mary, not suffering from pride or ego, simply says ‘yes’ – and light entered into the darkness of our world.

The light of Christ is intimidating. For us sinners, drawing close to Him – just looking at Him – is painful. But by Christ’s gift from the cross itself, we have Mary. And in a manner of speaking, she now overshadows Christ – placed by His divine providence between ourselves and Him as intercessor & guide. Thanks to her intercession, we find ourselves able to look more directly and see more clearly the glory & splendor of God. In contrast to the Lord, she is but a silhouette – we barely see her at all! – but because of her position & role as Jesus’ mother, we can make Him out more clearly and in greater detail while we are yet still sinners.

What a strange contradiction, that the Lord would go to such lengths to both enlighten the world and at the same time voluntarily allow Himself to be diminished! But in doing so He both offers salvation from darkness while also easing us into the brightness of eternal life.

As my parents were several years ago, I find myself continuing to marvel at what I saw this Monday, April 8 on the Solemnity of the Annunciation. I suspect I will be recounting the experience for a long time to come. I am particularly grateful for the way this celestial event points to a supernatural reality: that the Lord continues to provide for our sin & weakness – allowing us to turn toward Him and see His glory while we are yet in the valley of the shadow of death. By His grace, we will one day be able to see Him face to face – but even now we see glimpses of the glory to come, if we have the courage to look to the Lord.

  1. Just before totality, these diamond-looking visuals are called Bailey’s Beads. The red lights are prominences – which is a fancy word for solar flares! ↩︎

4 thoughts on “Light shining in the darkness – an eclipse on the Annunciation”

Comments are closed.