Return From Darkness

King Herod’s men attack us, taking James first, and straight away Herod has him beheaded like John the Baptist. Immediately after that he has me arrested; flung into prison. No one can approach me in that dark prison. And there are so many soldiers assigned to me. Why are they so afraid of one man?

I pray for each one, commending them to my Lord. They know that Jesus is close to me. I have such peace in this place, in the dark and discomfort. I feel the prayer of the whole community, lifting me out of darkness, giving me light and strength. And immediately, it seems that the community at prayer is multiplied by the presence of the community of heaven, ranks of spiritual beings sing with my brothers and sisters. I have such peace in this place.

The night before my trial – and I am still calm. The guard changes and another pair of men chain me between them. I pray for them and, making a place of comfort where isn’t one to be had, I let myself drift into sleep. Soon I dream. I see myself before my Lord again in that pagan place, as the question hangs in the air:

‘But you, who do you say I am?’

And I hear my own voice answer, like an echo passing through me:

‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’

‘Yes my Lord’ I think, ‘I am a happy man, because your Father in heaven showed me this.’

And my Lord says

‘And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church,

and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.’


And he gives me the keys (a prisoner with keys?) and he tells me that the authority to lead his kingdom is mine. I bind and loose now, as he wills. Even if I am bound here, I will listen, I will not be afraid. They plan to try me tomorrow. They have no power over me unless it is given to them by God.

The calm I feel in this submission to God is like a light shining into this prison. I am warmed by the light. It is brighter than day. It is a real light because then, in my dream I see a being, a messenger from God, all light, shining over me and over the two soldiers sleeping beside me. The messenger tells me to hurry and get up, to dress and follow him. I have no doubt about losing my chains, this is possible within a dream. We slip silently past the guards and on to the city gate. In the way of a dream no pressure is needed, and the gate opens before us.


We two walk along the street, man and a being of light, his face so bright that I wonder if he has gazed upon the face of God. As we come to the end of the street – he is gone. But the dream does not end with the disappearance of the messenger. It is not a dream!

I understand. The Lord has sent his angel to rescue me from Herod. I am going to the house where the Lord’s people are praying. I know where they are, the prayers rise up from behind a locked door. When they see me, they will know that the Lord brought me out of prison, to be there to guide them and to be the cornerstone of his church.

[Readings: Acts 3:1-10; Gal 1:11-20; Jn 21:15-19]

Deborah van Kroonenburg

I am a Secular Carmelite, mother and grandmother, worked in the NHS for many years as a midwife and health visitor, and now work for my UK Diocese, in Marriage and Family Life and Catechesis, as well as helping my husband who is a Deacon in our parish.


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