For about twenty-five years of my life, I was afraid of the dark. It was one of my biggest phobias, unwarranted and irrational. Nothing bad ever happened to me in the dark, but somehow — when I could no longer see clearly everything in front of me — darkness became a symbol of sinister stirrings. A child’s vivid imagination of monsters turned into demons, which never truly disappeared.
Growing up a city gal, I didn’t regularly experience the beauty and wonders that happened at night. On infrequent camping trips, I would sit by the fire after everyone else had long gone to sleep, and I’d marvel as I looked up at the night sky. Sometimes, in my mind, I’d hear distant musings from my parents that warned, “Nothing good ever happens after dark,” but then I’d refocus on the dim glow of the moon and the bright twinkle of stars already light-years burned out.
Only recently did I discover the beauty of night. I hadn’t really pondered it until I read a passage from St. Alphonsus Liguori about Mary as the gentle light of the moon and Jesus as the brightness of noonday sun:
The Dominican biblical commentator Cardinal Hugh of Saint-Cher says that ‘Christ is the greater light to rule the just, and Mary the lesser light to rule sinners.’ He means that the sun is a figure of Jesus Christ, ‘the Sun of Justice’(see Mal. 4:2), whose light is enjoyed by the just who live in the clear day of divine grace. But the moon is a figure of Mary, by whose means those who are in the night of sin are enlightened.
– St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary
As my husband, Ben, and I discussed this magnificent spiritual insight, we decided the saints could be the innumerable stars glistening in reflection of their eternal joy.
Mary, the Moon
If we dissect St. Alphonsus’ quote that “Mary is the lesser light to rule sinners” and that “the moon is a figure of Mary, by whose means those who are in the night of sin are enlightened,” we can surmise that the creation of the moon reveals much to us about this dark, but lovely, spirituality.
The moon’s softness doesn’t overwhelm. It is visible to us only after the sun has gone to sleep, and we, too, become drowsy from a long day’s work. Though the moon, like Mary, is always present, we don’t always see it — or her. We don’t notice the light she offers us until we have entered darkness.
In unholy darkness, we might panic, because all light has been extinguished from our souls. There’s nothing to guide us or lead us back to the true Light of the World, Jesus. But the moon, as Mary, beckons us not to be afraid of what we cannot see but instead to trust in her Son, who lights our path by day and night.
She, along with the countless stars that pepper the blackness of night, remind us that they are praying for us, present and available to us, and will never leave us. Mary, as the moon, then, is a special grace from God, because she, in her mercy, pleads that God will not abandon us entirely to our sin by justice alone. She appeals to Him on our behalf, that we might have a chance – night after night – to return to Him.
Jesus, the Sun/Son
Jesus is the Sun of Justice. He rules by the brilliance of blinding sunlight – so bright we cannot bear to directly gaze at it, or Him, without ruining our vision. The sun, as a metaphor for Jesus, reminds us of our nothingness and humanity, that we are incapable of achieving what we need without His omnipotent love.
The Sun warms our hearts, as well as illuminates our path. When we are people of day, we discover all the beauty that night hides in its shadows: the details of each delicate flower, the vibrancy of colors, the tiniest of bugs. The Sun reveals to us truth about ourselves and the world around us, which is something we often ignore or overlook when we become accustomed to living in the murkiness of night.
Jesus, the Sun and Mary, the Moon Intersect
Consider lunar and solar eclipses: they, like the Hearts of Mary and Jesus, intersect. They embrace and remind us of their unity of purpose and intent for our welfare.
Both the Sun and the Moon are necessary for different purposes, though they work together for our salvation. We cannot hide from ourselves, as we might desire in the dark crevices that nightfall affords us. This is why Mary, the Moon is so valuable: she is gentle, patient, and kindly draws us back into the Light.
Only by day can we truly be free from sin. That’s why we need the burning justice of Jesus’ chastisement as the Sun, which may scathe in order to refine us as pure souls burning for love of Him.