Archbishop George Stack offers the following reflection or today:
During the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday, the priest will meditate on these wonderful words:
I command you “Awake,O sleeper, I have not held you to be a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead. I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands,Arise, you were fashioned in my image. Rise,let us go hence. For you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person…Arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise. I will re-instate you,no longer in paradise,but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life”.
(From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday)
Those mystical words in the mind of the preacher: Are they spoken by the Father to Christ his Son? Spoken by Jesus to the ‘New Man’ that is the whole of humanity redeemed his blood? Spoken by the Spirit of God breathing new life into world and raising up those created for eternal life with him?
During these worrying days of the corona virus pandemic, we are made more and more aware of the fragility of human life and the delicate balance of the planet on which we live. How grateful we are to those in the medical profession and caring professions who put themselves at risk for the health and well being of the vulnerable. And who could fail to be moved by the increasing death toll,and the suffering that represents, made worse for the bereaved by not being able to mourn and say farewell in the usual way.
“Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you life”.
Long before there is physical death there is the long series of other deaths we suffer, of crucifixions, of diminishments and losses. In this we follow what happened to Jesus, God revealed in human language. It was his uniqueness, his goodness, his love which was crucified. It is in those areas of our lives where we bear God’s image the most perfectly,where we are most precious,most sensitive and most sensible that we feel most vulnerable and experience most pain and fear. We cover up those things which hurt, not allowing them to wound us any more. Perhaps we even defend ourselves by doing damage to others. But in doing all that, what is most precious within us gets buried in a tomb. A dream crucified. A human being frozen over. A rock placed firmly at the entrance of our lives.
The rising of Jesus from the dead is Good News for the living and for the dead. It is Good News but not easy news It was not a magic trick. It was the struggle between good and evil, a struggle between darkness and light. It is a struggle which goes on day by day on a world scale and in the secrecy of our hearts. Why does God allow bad things to happen? Is God defeated by the most profound rejection of his love? Where is God in the midst of human suffering? “Here” says Jesus with arms outstretched on the cross.
Let the final words be those of the poet Malcolm Guite at the 14th Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb:
Here at the centre everything is still.
Before the stir and movement of our grief
That bears its pain with rhythm,ritual,
Beautiful useless gestures of relief.
So they anoint the skin that cannot feel
And soothe his ruined flesh with tender care,
Kissing the wounds they know they cannot heal,
With incense scenting only empty air.
He blesses every love that weeps and grieves,
And makes our grief the pangs of a new birth.
The love that’s poured in silence at old graves,
Renewing flowers,tending the bare earth,
It never lost. In him all love is found
And sown with him, a seed in the rich ground.