“DO I ROLL AWAY THE STONE YET?”: 22 March 2008 (Black Saturday)
Note: The prescribed readings for today are already for the Easter Vigil tonight. I’d like to share some thoughts about Black Saturday.
This painting–one of my favorites–shows John and Peter running towards the Lord’s tomb. They’ve just received word from the women who report that the Lord’s tomb is empty. We read in their faces a mixture of excitement and fear: Has the body been taken away? Or could it be…?
John and Peter’s rush on Easter Sunday morning echoes the hurry with which our Lord was buried on Good Friday evening. Because of the coming Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea accompanied by a few brave souls like Nicodemus holds a secret and rushed burial for the Lord, laying him in the tomb. There was even hardly time for a proper anointing.
We tend to treat Black Saturday the same way. After Good Friday, there is a temptation to rush towards Easter and skip Black Saturday altogether. But Black Saturday has its own special graces to offer. The tomb of our Lord is not yet empty. Still lying buried inside is our Lord, his cold and lifeless body. The tomb is still worth visiting.
The truth is, we can’t skip Black Saturday. There can be no Easter Sunday if we don’t go through Black Saturday. We will not be fully prepared for the Resurrection if we don’t visit the Lord’s tomb and linger there to pray.
The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar emphasizes that lest we forget, on Black Saturday, Jesus was dead. He remained dead and did not rise from the dead until Easter morning. There is an ancient tradition that holds that Christ descended to Hell. But von Balthasar clarifies us that when he did, he probably did not do so triumphantly, but as dead among the dead.
And so before Easter descends on us and ends the season of Lent, let us resist rushing to Easter. We need to tarry before rolling away the stone. It’s not yet time, and it’s not ours to do. It may not be the most pleasant experience, but we need to spend time standing before his grave and praying to our lifeless Lord. For now God is dead among the dead. It is his ultimate act of solidarity to be fully one with us and totally one of us. Because the Lord also went through death, even death is now a blessed place.
Here’s a Quick Question for you: “How do you feel about a God who is–at least for those few moments between the Lord’s death and resurrection–powerless?” Share a thought, a feeling, or a question.
(image: Peter and John running to the tomb)