Luke 23:44 *It was now about noonz and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon 45 because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.a 46 Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last.b 47 The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent* beyond doubt.”
The Painting: (1) From the beginning of God’s relationship to human beings, God has sought, step by step, and century by century, to get us to see the world, and ourselves in it, through His eyes, instead of through our own eyes. Notice how Tissot gets us to see through Jesus’ eyes as He hangs on the Cross. An astonishing and unexpected perspective! (2) By contrast, every painting of the Crucifixion makes us look at it through our eyes (from below, looking up) and, therefore, from our notoriously limited perspective. (3) There is nothing beautiful, at all, about looking at a brutalized, humiliated person pinned to a cross and left there to die in the presence of crowds mostly indifferent to Him. Tissot, contrarily, lets us see just how beautiful is the world that Jesus beholds from the Cross (colorful, richly diverse expressions of God’s creative power, a world given us as a Garden to enjoy not alone but with many others and of all kinds). God is proud of and loves what He created. (4) Our eyes looking at God make God ugly, while, in contrast, God’s eyes looking at us make us, and our world, beautiful. (5) Finally, notice those two men in white, sitting on the rock wall in front of the open tomb near the center of the painting. Let us suggest that they are the two Angels who stayed with Christ in the tomb. Jesus sees them there. The Angels are letting Him know that they will be there for Him, even in the Tomb, as years before they had been there for Him, and with His parents, at the beginning place, on the night that He was born near Bethlehem of Judea.
“And they’ll take your soul if you let them, oh, but don’t you let them.”
Somewhere St. Ephrem the Syrian comments on Luke 23:44 concerning the darkness that came over “the whole land” for three hours that Good Friday afternoon. His provocative suggestion was that Christ’s enemies (read: “us”) were capable of seeing Him only in the darkness, because that is where we dwelt. I thought of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:1-21), who had “come to Him at night” (3:2), and something that Jesus said to this Pharisee:
John 3:19 And this is the verdict,n that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.o 21 But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
Up until now I have understood that darkness at noon, and then its continuance for three hours, as the Father’s allowing of our earthly light – the Sun (which would necessarily involve the Moon) – to be extinguished. What we had done to the Son, the Light of the World, I reasoned, God then allowed to happen to the lights of this world. It was God’ prerogative to allow this to happen, because “the light” is of God – light from Light.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth—2 and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—b 3 Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light.c 4 God saw that the light was good. God then separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”
We, in starkest contrast, and because “we preferred darkness to light” (John 3:19), catalyzed a powerful act of un-creation when we set about extinguishing the Son, about whom the Nicene Creed affirms:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten from the Father, only-begotten, that is, from the substance of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father, through Whom all things came into being, things in heaven and things on earth….
But then there is the obvious fact that there was no un-creation of the world on that Good Friday. Rather, we heard in the darkness the sound of a man’s voice speaking:
Luke 23:47 The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.”
That darkness over the world was fecund; inside of it was insight, and born from it was recognition.
Mark 15:39 When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
That darkness on Good Friday was about re-creation,  not un-creation. That darkness signaled an arrival, coming as a luminous Presence cloaked: the Father, Who heard the cry of his beloved Son … and came down.
8 *The earth rocked and shook;
the foundations of the mountains trembled;
they shook as his wrath flared up.e
9 Smoke rose from his nostrils,
a devouring fire from his mouth;
it kindled coals into flame.
10 He parted the heavens and came down,
a dark cloud under his feet.f
11 Mounted on a cherub* he flew,
borne along on the wings of the wind.
12 He made darkness his cloak around him;
his canopy, water-darkened storm clouds. 
“This is the night / of which it is written: / The night shall be as bright as day, / dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.”
Much of our theological language – in hymns, in spiritual writing, in doctrine – reflects a conviction that needs more exploration, lest we misconstrue the truth, or at least significantly narrow its scope. That conviction is that Christ died for us, and for our salvation.
Let us consider, in light of this conviction, the seventh of the Last Words: “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.”
Notice that Jesus did not say, as He could well have done: “All of you; listen to Me. I am doing this all for you. Into your hands I have handed over my very life. Do you understand what I have done for you?” No, not that. Or, as another example, Jesus did not say to those gathered below His cross something similar to what the dying Captain Miller in the movie Saving Private Ryan whispered to Private James Francis Ryan whom they had come to rescue: “Earn this!” No, not that. Finally, we did not hear Jesus say to those watching Him die: “You owe me bigtime. But pay Me back by paying this forward.” No, nothing like this. That Jesus said nothing like this should catch our attention.
Jesus’ final word was not spoken to us, or for the sake of us. Jesus speaks His last word to His Father.
We overlook how the passion and death of Christ was a profound labor of love done by Jesus for His Father, and a sustaining love given by the Father to His beloved Son, and of the Holy Spirit powerfully active as Love penetrating all aspects of this Mystery. The Trinity was at work expressing its own magnificent inner life in the Paschal Mystery, acting not primarily for a reason, but because God is LOVE: the mutual love of the divine Persons, which the ancient tradition calls the perichoresis.
Love does what Love is … and not for a reason.
Each year during Passion Week we recall, and own, that we rejected Jesus Christ, and that we wanted Him dead. We found Him simply too much to bear, as those early on in Nazareth also experienced Him. We did not want Him as our Lord to act for us and for our salvation, wanting instead something else, or someone else. But as 2 Timothy succinctly reminds: 13 If we are unfaithful, God remains faithful, for God cannot deny Himself.  It might be especially valuable to think less of our sins this week and more about the divine glory that kindles in the darkness of Golgotha – the revelation of the inner life of the divine Trinity active and inexorable and effective.
The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty. 
Doers of the Word: The “doing” of this week is really all about letting God reveal Himself to us as Trinity. As a result, the “doing” is about extra time we set aside to be inside the Passion accounts in the Gospels (normally it is best to stick to one Gospel, asking for the grace to see). Let us resolve to resist the “pull” we might feel to dwell on our sins, so that we can let God show Himself at work. Imagine us really seeing the Trinity at work throughout the Passion, and feeling joy when we do see. Remember that each of us contemplates the Passion from the perspective of the completely triumphant Christ, still bearing the marks of His passion, Who sits at the right hand of the Father in glory. This resurrection perspective does not “sanitize” the Passion of its ugliness, or obscure its stark reality, but it frames it properly.
 See Grove Art Online (Oxford) at “James Tissot” by Willard E. Misfeldt: “French painter, printmaker, and enamellist…. His religious experience [c. 1884-1885] led him to devote his remaining years primarily to illustrating the Life of Christ and the Old Testament. Tissot felt impelled to depict the Palestine of Christ’s day and he made several trips to the Holy Land to do research. His series of 365 gouache illustrations for the Life of Christ (New York, Brooklyn Mus.) were executed at the Château de Buillon, which he had inherited from his father in 1888 and shown to enthusiastic crowds in Paris (1894 and 1895), London (1896) and New York (1898) and then toured North America until 1900. They were published in 1896–7 and in several later editions. Tissot left his Old Testament paintings (New York, Jew. Mus.) unfinished, but they were subsequently completed by other artists and the engravings published in 1904. These two religious series were the most notable visual summation of the Catholic revival in late 19th-century France.”
 It appears that I have skipped over the sixth of the Seven Last Words of Christ – at John 19:30 *When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.” But I touched on this “sixth” of the Words in my Meditation for the Fifth Week of Lent. But there is the practical fact that there are only six weeks Lent, and there are seven Last Words of Jesus.
* Noon … three in the afternoon: literally, the sixth and ninth hours. See note on Mk 15:25.
z Am 8:9.
a Ex 26:31–33; 36:35.
b Ps 31:6; Acts 7:59.
* This man was innocent: or, “This man was righteous.”
f Ps 104:3; 144:5; Is 63:19.
 I have understood this capacity given us by God to see the world as He made it to be, as He sees it in all its extraordinary richness and subtle elegance of order, as what the first gift of the Holy Spirit means: the gift of Wisdom.
 Recall the “Contemplation on the Incarnation” in St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, at the “First Prelude” [SpEx 102] where we are invited to “look down upon the world” from Heaven: “This will consist in calling to mind the history of the subject I have to contemplate. Here it will be how the Three Divine Persons look down upon the whole expanse or circuit of all the earth, filled with human beings.”
 “Even as many were amazed at Him – / so marred were His features, / beyond that of mortals / His appearance, beyond that of human beings – … / He was spurned and avoided by men, / a man of suffering, knowing pain, / like one from whom you turn your face, / spurned, and we held Him in no esteem.” Isaiah 52:14. The is taken from the last of the Four Servant Songs found in Second Isaiah. The note in the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE) at Isaiah 42:1 reads: “Servant: three other passages have been popularly called “servant of the Lord” poems: 49:1–7; 50:4–11; 52:13–53:12. Whether the servant is an individual or a collectivity is not clear (e.g., contrast 49:3 with 49:5). More important is the description of the mission of the servant. In the early Church and throughout Christian tradition, these poems have been applied to Christ; cf. Mt 12:18–21.
 “Yet is was our pain that He bore, / our sufferings that He endured. / We thought of Him as stricken, / struck down by God and afflicted.” See at Isaiah 53:4 – a continuation of verses from the Fourth Song of the Servant.
 See John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 5: “Pouring out a thousand graces, / He passed these groves in haste; / and having looked at them, / with His image alone, / clothed them in beauty.” St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, ICS Publications in Collected Works, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD. I remember reading about how essential it is for the life and prospering of a newborn child that he or she be looked at with love from the moment his or her eyes first open. It is that loving gaze that “clothes the child in beauty”, letting that child know (before ever its cognitive capacity has come into play) that he or she is beloved, and wanted, and who is a source of joy to those looking at him or her.
 John 20:11-12 – “And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white sitting there….”
 Wikipedia notes: “’You’ve Got a Friend’ is a 1971 song written by Carole King. It was first recorded by King, and included in her album Tapestry. Another well-known version is by James Taylor from his album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon…. According to Taylor, King told him that the song was a response to a line in Taylor’s earlier song “Fire and Rain” that ‘I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.’”
k Nm 23:19; Rom 3:3–4; 1 Cor 10:13; Ti 1:2.
 Ephrem the Syrian (b. c. 306; fl. 363–373). Syrian writer of commentaries and devotional hymns which are sometimes regarded as the greatest specimens of Christian poetry prior to Dante.
 Raymond E. Brown, in his famous and exhaustive work on the Passion, writes concerning Luke’s use of the “darkness” motif: “This rearrangement is undoubtedly a reflection of Luke’s penchant for a (logically) more orderly account (Luke 1:3) and shows an understanding that the two signs are of similar origin, reflecting God’s wrath. Luke wanted to concentrate the negative elements before the moment when Jesus would entrust his spirit into his Father’s hands (23:46). Everything in Luke that will follow that act of trust will be positive, acknowledging God’s benevolence.” Raymond E. Brown, The Death of the Messiah and 2: From Gethsemane to the Grave, a Commentary on the Passion Narratives in the Four Gospels, vol. 1 (New York; London: Yale University Press, 1994), 1038.
n 1:5, 9–11; 8:12; 9:5.
o Jb 24:13–17.
b Jer 4:23.
c 2 Cor 4:6.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Ge 1:1–5. This first “light” and “darkness” in Genesis 1:3-4 is clearly not the same thing as the second light: light of the Sun and Moon and the Stars. These latter lights were created after God had already clothed the Earth with vegetation (Genesis 1:14-16). I have understood that first Light as the establishment by God of a moral universe, or the securing of a foundational moral context that would be that in which God began to create everything else. At the beginning of Creation there was no ambiguity about the distinction between what was GOOD and what was not. But we must not overlook that God did not create evil or the Darkness; rather God distinguished Light from Darkness.
 J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, Third Edition. (London; New York: Continuum, 2006), 216. Concerning the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 CE see: Richard P.C. Hanson, “Creeds and Confessions of Faith,” ed. Angelo Di Berardino and James Hoover, trans. Joseph T. Papa, Erik A. Koenke, and Eric E. Hewett, Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic; InterVarsity Press, 2014), 632. For example: “The Council of Constantinople (381 CE) represented the triumph of his doctrine and that of the three great Cappadocians, Basil of Caesarea (ca. 330–379), Gregory of Nazianzus (329–389) and Basil’s brother Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 330–ca. 395). To it has been traditionally attributed the best-known and most important creed in the history of Christianity, commonly known as the Nicene or Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (C to scholars). Whether the council of 381 did actually draw up this creed is the subject of a lively controversy (see Kelly, op. cit., ch. X).”
 The story from the pre-history section of Genesis, chapters 1-11, of Noah and his family and the Great Flood, is the most famous example of un-creation in the Bible. That story makes it clear that God “repented” that He had acted so drastically, and through the sign of the Bow (a rainbow), God promised humanity that un-creation would never be allowed.
 The Oxford English Dictionary at “fecund”: Of animals, the earth, etc.: “Capable of producing offspring or vegetable growth abundantly; prolific, fertile.”
 We think of Genesis 1: 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”
* God appears in the storm, which in Palestine comes from the west. The introduction to the theophany (Ps 18:8–9) is probably a description of a violent, hot, and dry east-wind storm. In the fall transition period from the rainless summer to the rainy winter such storms regularly precede the rains, cf. Ex 14:21–22.
e Ps 97:3–4; 99:1; Jgs 5:4–5; Is 64:1; Heb 3:9–11.
f Ps 104:3; 144:5; Is 63:19.
* Cherub: a winged creature, derived from myth, in the service of the deity (Gn 3:24; Ex 25:18–20; 37:6–9). Cherubim were the throne bearers of the deity (Ps 80:2; 99:1; 1 Kgs 6:23–28; 8:6–8).
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the verb “to misconstrue” – “To put a wrong interpretation upon (a word, action, etc.); to mistake the meaning of (a person); to take in a wrong sense (in modern use often intentionally).”
 At one point, Jesus did ask His disciples at John 13: 12 So when he had washed their feet [and] put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?”
 Wikipedia notes: “Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 American epic war film directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat. Set during the Invasion of Normandy in World War II, the film is notable for its graphic portrayal of war, and for the intensity of its opening 27 minutes, which includes a depiction of the Omaha Beach assault during the Normandy landings. It follows United States Army Rangers Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) and a squad (Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldberg, and Jeremy Davies) as they search for a paratrooper, Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), who is the last surviving brother of four servicemen.”
 Wikipedia notes: Pay It Forward is a 2000 American romantic drama film based on the novel of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde. It is set in Las Vegas, and it chronicles 12-year-old Trevor McKinney’s launch of a goodwill movement known as ‘pay it forward’. Directed by Mimi Leder and written by Leslie Dixon, it stars Haley Joel Osment as Trevor, Helen Hunt as his alcoholic single mother Arlene McKinney, and Kevin Spacey as his physically and emotionally scarred social studies teacher Eugene Simonet.”
 This reminds us about how we continue to suffer the effects of sin that binds us in the darkness of self-absorption, making our Redemption far more about me and what I require – for me, for my salvation – than about God, and about Who God is revealed to be as Trinity – a mutuality of divine Love.
 The divine LOVE has its “reasons” that our human reason is far too limited sufficiently to grasp. And we all have examples, even personal ones, that prove that some of the greatest acts of love that we know were unreasonable to a high degree (in the sense that no “reasonable” person could have guessed that a person would act so lovingly for another). The giving of forgiveness to someone who has badly damaged our life is completely “unreasonable”, but it is what Love does, and what divine Love commands of us to do.
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the noun “perichōrēsis” [peri-ko-REE-sus]: “Ancient Greek περιχώρησις ‘going round, rotation,’ in Byzantine Greek also interpenetration of the Trinity (7th cent.).”
And, more fully explained by Basil Studer, in ed. Angelo Di Berardino and James Hoover, trans. Joseph T. Papa, Erik A. Koenke, and Eric E. Hewett, Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic; InterVarsity Press, 2014), 143.: PERICHORESIS (Gk. πειχώρησις). A term in Neoplatonic anthropology that was used to explain how the soul was intimately united to the body without being confused with it; by means of analogy, Gregory of Nazianzus applied it to the union of the two natures in Jesus Christ (Ep. 101; Or. 38,13). In this sense, it was reused by Byzantine authors who saw in the human composite an analogy of the incarnation (Lampe 1077ff.). Maximus the Confessor developed the concept to explain the unity of the person against the Monothelites (Bausenhart 173), using the example of a piece of iron placed in a fire, an example Origen had used to illustrate the union of the soul with the Logos. Following the thought of ps.-Cyril (PG 77, 1144B, 1163B), John of Damascus adopted the term perichoresis in an analogous sense for the inseparable, but not confused, union of the three divine persons (Expos. 8; 14; 49). Thanks to the Latin translation of John of Damascus’s Expositio made by Burgundio of Pisa, scholastic theology also received the idea under the Latin term circumincessio.
 See: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/easter/easter-proclamation-exsultet.cfm. Here just a few of its many lines of poetry.