The candles welcoming Sabbath had but little effect on the feeling of dark that pervaded the very air they breathed. Always before the cheery glow of tomorrow’s promise had been a reminder of who they were – God’s people, people of promise, people of a future with hope, a past with meaning – even in times when the present was too horrific to do anything but survive through. Those candles, bravely pushing back the deep darkness, spoke the gift of rest. But not tonight – not today. Today, the darkness loomed and swirled and gathered in force. The little Sabbath candles seemed to shrink before the assault. Perhaps, after all . . . after all . . . the dark would win out, the light would be gone. Forever.
Even the little light of the flickering candle was too much for some of them. The terror settled down deeply – gripping their hearts in its icy claws – would even the little light give them away? Hiding in the dark was easier that hiding in even this little light. Would the anger of the crowds, the brutal efficiency of the Romans, the belligerent righteousness of the rulers respect the Sabbath – or would they search until they found every last one of them? Scattered through the city in twos and threes, hidden with family, pockets of shame and shock – most sitting silently in the last place anything had seemed normal. Would a rented room become their last memory of freedom?
Sabbath stuck them in the city, but at dawn they would run – scatter to . . . wherever. Cursing themselves for hoping, for not listening to the warnings, for letting themselves get caught up in the possibilities. Shame and despair was so thick in the room it could be tasted – a bitter, rank, metallic taste no amount of wine could mask. All they could do today was wait in the dark.
The wait crept on – and on. Minutes and hours collapsed into one another – memories flashed without insight – words spoken without understanding – weeping would erupt from a broken heart, the sound of dying dreams filling the still, candle-lit air, adding to the weight of waiting. Never a Sabbath like this. Never a rest like this. Never a darkness like this. Impossible to be present to the day. Yesterday’s horror and tomorrow’s terror pressed into every seam. Darkness inched deeper and deeper with each labored breath.
Would it ever be light again?