Our lead up to Easter this year has been very different than in most years. No gatherings to participate in foot washing or veneration of the cross. Lots of sitting in front of our computers or ipads trying our best to participate in online services. Now, here we are on Holy Saturday.
But however we are doing so, yesterday, Good Friday, we commemorated the crucifixion of Jesus, and tomorrow we will celebrate the Resurrection.
What about today?
In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius encourages us to take time in the space between Jesus’ death and His Resurrection, believing it is necessary for us to truly experience Jesus’ death and absence before we can fully appreciate the significance of His rising for us. The “tomb day” experience of the Spiritual Exercises is thus an invitation to envision a world without Jesus.
This is a lot more difficult for us than it was for Jesus’ disciples. For us, the progression from Good Friday to Easter Sunday is almost seamless. We live in a world infused with resurrection, so we never question it. The Resurrection is a given.
Do we really appreciate what we have? Do we have a sense of what life would be if Jesus did not rise on the third day?
The disciples did have a very real sense of this. For them, the death of Jesus was the end. Three years of following Jesus and it was all over. Imagine what they experienced! Fear – that everything Jesus had said and done ended at his death. Powerlessness – believing they had been abandoned by God. The finality of loss – as the stone was put in front of the tomb. Confusion – what would they do now?
Tomb day in the Spiritual Exercises invites us to get in touch with that sense of loss, to try to understand what it would mean to live in a world without Jesus. Ignatius’ instruction for prayer during this day is to be with the disciples and with Mary in their grief over losing Jesus. To be with them as they take Jesus’ body off the cross, wash and anoint it, place it in the tomb, and watch the rock being rolled across the tomb’s entrance. To be with the other disciples afterwards, cowering in the upper room. One instruction for the tomb day experience says, “Let the effect of Jesus’ death permeate your whole being and the world around you for the whole day.”
I encourage you, amidst the preparation for your Easter celebrations, to take some time today to do exactly that: let Jesus’ death permeate your being; experience, as much as you are able, a world without Jesus.
For a different and wonderful Holy Saturday reflection, check out David Haas’ morning sharing for today. (I have been benefitting tremendously from his morning and evening Facebook livestreams.)