Saturday, March 26, 2016

Holy Saturday: Silent Rest of God Sleeping

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence over the earth today, a great silence and stillness because the King sleeps.” – from an ancient homily on Holy Saturday (in the Office of Readings)

Something strange happened to me in February 21, 2012. I spent an all-night vigil inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which housed the tomb of Jesus. I stayed mostly in the Chapel of the Angels, the small antechamber where the angel announced to the women that Jesus had been raised. As I sat looking in the tomb, a deep silence ensued. Something beckoned me to wait. Waiting for what I know not of. I tried to fill the silence with prayers of petitions for people, with moments of distractions and yawns. Gradually, something dawned within me. I don’t know what it was, but a deep sense of peace and trust grew within. Then a quiet, gentle joy slowly emerged. I can’t really explain it.  Such peace and joy lasted the entire night, at a consistent depth and duration that I had never known before. A simple and powerful truth grabbed me: Jesus’ resurrection happened at the same place where he was entombed. At the same place where death lays new life arises; where fear treads, love dances; where grief dwells, hope springs; where we struggle, Christ’s peace rests.

It has been four years, yet this experience still quietly haunts me. It helps me to find meaning in the sudden and tragic death of my brother-in-law last September.

The full text of the ancient homily on Holy Saturday speaks of the great silence after Jesus' death as God-King sleeps. In the silence that seems like nothingness and meaninglessness, something unbelievably new and life giving is happening. Jesus descends into all forms of human death and dying, suffering and hell, sins and failures. In doing so, he transforms everything! Before Easter Sunday arrives, we are invited to rest in the silence of Holy Saturday. For God’s sleeping and resting awakens the joy of Christian faith. Something strange is happening.

What if today, we simply rest, doing nothing, in God’s tender embrace?

Lord, help me to rest in silence with you, to be in solidarity with all who are abandoned and alone, learning to trust in your faithful love which turns death into life.