Our website is made possible by displaying online ads to our visitors.
Please consider supporting us by whitelisting our site.

Praying from the Pit

Just before I left for the Holy Land, a priest friend asked me to pray for him from “the pit,” the sacred place beneath the house of Caiaphas, where Jesus was imprisoned the night before his crucifixion. The pit is an aspect of the Passion that I had never considered. It is not mentioned in the Gospels, the Stations of the Cross or the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary, yet it’s the one place where Jesus spent most of his time during the Passion.

vocations the pit

Prisoners were lowered by rope through a narrow hole into "the pit," the cell where it is believed Jesus spent the night before his Passion. COURTESY

Enemies of the high priest were lowered into the pit with ropes through a single hole in the ceiling. This dark, latrine-like prison was not only inescapable for captives, but likely was crawling with all kinds of vermin and human filth. This is where Jesus spent the night. He entered his final combat with sin in the solitude of this cell and prepared to conquer death the next day.

I entered the pit with two of my classmates and together we prayed Psalm 88, “For my soul is filled with troubles … You plunge me into the depths of the pit, into the darkness of the abyss … Caged in, I cannot escape … my enemies encircle me on every side … friend and neighbor you have taken away … my one companion is darkness.”

I could imagine Jesus praying these words.

The universal church prays these words every Friday night in the Liturgy of the Hours. We pray from the pit in solidarity with Jesus along with any member of his mystical body who is suffering this type of agony and isolation.

At times, the dark pit of our wounds and sins can feel like an inescapable prison. But when it feels like our one companion is darkness, our true companion is Jesus. He allows himself to be lowered into the filth of our sin and the pit of our despair. He prefers to meet us there — the place in our heart we would prefer to hide.

Jesus descends into the pit, where he willingly chooses to sit through the darkest hours of the night. There is no depth or darkness to which God will not descend in the mission of redemption. He converts the life-draining pit of sin into a life-giving well of mercy that overflows for the salvation of the world. In the same way, he has the power to redeem any space in our hearts where we allow him to dwell. The deeper the wound, the deeper the well. 

His power transformed the cross — the ugliest symbol of sin — into the ultimate expression of love. It is by this same power that he makes the pit sacred.

Confession and holy Communion are opportunities to encounter him in our personal pit of sin, united to him and elevated through his cross to his resurrection.

Jesus plunges himself into the depths of our alienation, so that we might rise. This is our destiny — but first we must pray from the pit.

Deacon Koehr, from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Warrenton, is in his fourth year of theological studies at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019