In the end, I didn't and sought my usual touchstones -- poetry, the Church fathers and the psalms...but a friend has been thinking deeply and beautifully about that time, and about grieving in many forms.
The photo is from Eastern Point, and was used by a fellow retreatant during her contemplations of the third week.
Last night we walked the road to Calvary with Christ, witnesses again to the reality of Christ’s passion and death. I will admit that I find it difficult to avoid being transfixed by the horror, mentally scripting a Passion to compete with Mel Gibson’s cinematic version. I will also admit to a guilty sense of relief when the Liturgy ends and we all go home - where I am confronted with the laundry and a messy kitchen and not with Christ on the cross. Poet T.S. Eliot recognized what underlies my ambivalence, “human kind cannot bear very much reality.”
The psalm we just prayed begs for assistance in the face of an overwhelming reality of pain and torment, “my eyes grow weak, gazing heaven-ward: O Lord, I am in straits, be my surety!” The psalmist cannot bear to look on such things for very long, either, I suspect.
But this moment we are now suspended in, the empty time between Holy Friday and the Great Easter Vigil, demands more of us than a passing acknowledgement of the grievous sufferings Christ endured on our behalf. St. Augustine’s advice on contemplating the Passion is difficult to hear:
“You suppose that having said ‘I cried out to you,’ you are somehow done with crying out. But even though you have cried out, you must not expect relief to come quickly. The agony of the Church and of the Body of Christ will last until the end of time.”It’s a harrowing grace I seek on this day, to sit with the knowledge that Jesus has died, but not yet risen. All too often in my journey through the Triduum I have contemplated the Crucifixion while watching the Resurrection out of the corner of my eye - singing O Sacred Head Surrounded one moment, rehearsing Easter alleluias the next.
This year, I’ve thrown my lot in with Augustine, momentarily open to an experience of a world truly empty of Jesus’ physical presence. Hoping to sharpen my awareness of the depths to which I am loved, the lengths to which God has gone to redeem me. Hoping to know more fully the joy of the dawning light of Christ.
Psalm 69 offers a us a poignant yet powerful image of such an experience
I have entered the watery depths, and the current has swept me away.
I am exhausted with my calling out.
My throat is hoarse.
My eyes fail from hoping for my God.
Holy Saturday is an invitation for us enter those depths, to let the current sweep us away, until we know what it is like to call for God until we are exhausted, to seek him until our eyes fail. Until we grasp what we proclaim at each celebration of the Eucharistic, until we comprehend what the first disciples did: Christ has died. For this one day, let us bear what reality we can.