I was on edge as I sat down for prayer yesterday morning. Although Easter Alleluias were erupting from our Churches and resurrection joy was bursting forth, I felt lifeless. I flipped through the Easter Gospels, hoping to experience the same joy I witnessed at the Easter Vigil the night before, but I just felt dry, agitated and empty.
“What’s missing?” I pondered. “ This is the day of resurrection, why do I feel so lifeless? Why do I feel so empty? What makes this Easter different?”
Each year I attend all the liturgies of the Paschal Triduum, and this year wasn’t any different. At each liturgy, I tried my best to accompany Jesus at every step during his last days - from the Last Supper, to the agony in the garden, to his crucifixion and death. I went to all the liturgies, I prayed all the prayers, I meditated on all the stations, I did all the things. But I did everything but grieve. And this is what was missing.
Each year the Church invites us to enter into the holy process of grieving in the silence of Holy Saturday. No liturgies take place during the day. Our altars are stripped, the tabernacles are empty, and a haunting silence envelops the whole Church. Holy Saturday reminds us that Good Friday was not a bad dream. He is gone. “It is finished.” Our stunned hearts need space to catch up with the horror and trauma of the past few days. We need to weep. We need to mourn. We need to sit for a while with the pain and sadness of death. We need to grieve. But we don’t.
It seems that we try to do all that we can to run from the pain of the tomb. His tomb. Our tombs. We so quickly fill the silence of Holy Saturday with Easter preparations. We keep busy. We make deviled eggs and prepare the Ham. We swiftly decorate the bare Churches to fill the uncomfortable emptiness. We lunge towards the resurrection light, forgetting that we will never fully appreciate and experience new life when we have not first acknowledged the heartache of death.
If we’re honest, the heartache in the tomb is a very difficult thinng to face. Unspeakable pain, betrayal, shattered dreams, and a pierced and broken tender heart all lay inside the tomb. Is it any wonder why the tomb is so fiercely guarded and sealed shut?
This year, I too, busied myself on Holy Saturday, and I did it on purpose. I ran errands, called a few friends, kept my spotify going all day and busied myself around the house. I did not grieve. I would not grieve. The silence of Holy Saturday was triggering an acknowledged grief in my own heart. A grief that I had fiercely guarded and sealed shut. A grief I was trying to pretend wasn’t there as I lunged towards the resurrection light, desperately wanting everything to be fine and even believing it was, but it wasn’t.
Each of us have places within our hearts that need to be restored to life. A place that is fiercely guarded and sealed shut. A tomb we don’t mention and a place we don’t visit. A place where a pierced and broken tender heart is laid to rest. A place that the Lord wants to touch and transform with his resurrection power.
While we desperately try to avoid the tomb, we forget that Jesus is in the tomb. Our death is His death. Our tears are His tears. He has descended to the deepest and darkest places, our deepest and darkest places, so that we would never be alone. He is truly Emmanuel, God with us. Always with us. Forever with us. The one who restores everything. While we weep on Holy Saturday, He is busy descending to the depths of misery, our misery, to restore all that is lost. Jesus redeems everything.
The miracle of the resurrection happens at the tomb, within the tomb. At the very place where sadness, misery and loss are buried, miracles are waiting to take place. If we want to experience resurrection, we have to emulate Mary Magdalene and run towards the tomb. We have to be courageous enough to face the place of loss. To acknowledge what is buried. To grieve and then let go. To die so that we can rise.
The mystery of Holy Saturday reminds me to pause to grieve what has been broken within my own heart. I might have to remain in the grief of Holy Saturday for a while, weeping at the tomb. But it’s ok. And it’s necessary. Holy Saturday teaches me that I don’t have to be afraid of grief, Jesus is with me in it journeying with me towards resurrection joy.
Be not afraid! Move towards your fiercely guarded and sealed tomb and discover the love of the savior who will restore all things!
“What good would life have been for us, had Christ not come as our Redeemer? Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love!
O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” - The Exsultet (The Easter Proclamation)