Where we are in the story: we’ve come through the Passover, the beginning of Passover, in the Holy city. We’ve already gone through the experience of coming in, of having the last supper, of giving your final and most important teachings of anointing and appointing people in the journey that is to come. We’ve gone through the Good Friday and all of the drama surrounding the apparently false conviction, and the crucifixion in its metaphysical sense. And now, all of that is done. And the body of the Christ has been wrapped in linen and is laid in a stone tomb on a hill outside of Jerusalem. Stony ground, outside of the secure part of the temple where the crucifixions all happen, the Hill of Skulls. His body has been removed into a tomb into the wall and a stone rolled in front of it, and that is all we know right now.
If you were in his inner circle at the time, perhaps you would’ve known of his promises, or you would have known of the mystical component of coming back, of living beyond the body. Maybe you wouldn’t know that. Maybe you would just be suddenly in your grief, or suddenly in your curiosity or abandonment, or who knows where you would be. Every range of human emotion is expected. His mother, and His wife, and all of the people who are attending the tomb are sitting vigil, but they come and go, because it’s done, and it’s also the Sabbath.
Why does this day in Holy Week in the Christian calendar get so little attention? Things happen on Thursday. Friday. Nothing happens on Saturday. Then it’s Easter.
But this day, actually, to me is one of the most important days in the process, because it’s on this day that you are in the ambiguity. You’re in the space of waiting and not knowing. You think things are one way, and the mystery or the promise hasn’t yet come to fruition.You are in the ambiguity, in the waiting.
It’s what I notice in myself and in many people around me, particularly those who are kind of really analytical or big-brained, is that in times of waiting or ambiguity, you want to rush to conclusions. You want to just jump into, “I know how it is. I’m taking in all the data and drawing connections. I know it’s going to happen.” Because it creates like some kind of sense of security or knowing in oneself, some kind of sense of control.
But what the Saturday component of the Holy Week story is, is that’s not the case. You just be with what is. You be with what has happened. Injustice is present, fear is present, power structures are present. This person I love so much is now out of the body, and all I can do is be with that. And so there’s this poignancy to this day, this empty day. Another reason nothing happens is because this is called God’s Sabbath. It’s the Jewish calendar, and nothing happens on the Sabbath. You’re supposed to rest. And so, there’s a God’s rest day in Holy Week, which is the doing nothing of the entombment just being with that.
As we go into the meditation on what it’s like to have Holy Saturday without Easter Sunday. In your mind, can you hold the ambiguity, the not knowing, the death has happened, and just be with that grief or that sadness without the promise of Easter Sunday already in your heart?
The very real, deep presence of the human experience of grief, and confusion, or whatever else might arise, and the aftermath of something like Good Friday, whether that’s the Good Friday of our times or an ancient story. What if no miracle is coming, and you’re just in your body, and in your breath, and your home place, maybe the trees are still budding. Maybe it’s still spring time. Maybe your still sheltering in place with your cat. Maybe nothing will change, and you’ll be in this situation forever. What is present right now?
In most traditions, there’ll be a vigil tonight. It’ll start at sundown, and then sometime, right around sunrise, there’ll be this proclamation of the rising. And in the vigil time, the main mantra of the Eastern Orthodox church, and even some Catholic churches, is to, don’t go back to sleep. Don’t go back to sleep.
How many of us have had that experience of touching into something profound and deep, and then are pulled back into the drama of human systems? And we do. We pulsate between being awake and being asleep and being in our fear and being in our total confidence and knowing.
The Holy Saturday is an interstitial period, a time to be in the ambiguity, and try to witness the pulsation between being awake and being asleep, being in the confidence and faith of love, and being in the fear and drama. The cycle is inevitable of moving in and out from the dark to the light and back to the dark. Today we are being in trust of this rhythm.