by Sarah Brock
AM Psalm 1, 2, 3 PM Psalm 4, 7
1 Samuel 15:1-3, 7-23; Acts 9:19b-31;
“Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep.” You may recognize this as the opening to an ancient homily on Holy Saturday from an unknown author. Indeed something strange is happening in this passage from the Gospel of Luke. But, though the tone and activity is markedly more muted than the moments leading up to the crucifixion, the immediate aftermath of Jesus’ death is certainly not silent or still.
The centurion praises God, the crowd disperses beating their breasts, the women keep watch and move to assist Joseph of Arimathea in preparing Christ’s body for burial. With the sabbath impending they work quickly and carefully; wrapping their beloved in linen and preparing the spices and oils for his anointment.
It is then that the silence of Saturday, the sabbath day, descends. This day of rest is a day of fear, confusion, and mourning.
In the midst of overwhelming agony, it would be easy to take a pass on sticking with the usual structure of daily life. Surely, skipping one sabbath, especially given the circumstances, would be understandably forgiven. We all do it, right? Life happens and I think, ‘I just don’t feel up to going to church this morning’ or ‘I can’t pray or meditate or meet God today.’ So I find it noteworthy that Joseph and the women, and all of Jesus’ followers, diligently pause for the sabbath; sticking to, and perhaps finding comfort in, their faith tradition. These women do not insist on continuing to prepare the body immediately, they take the day of rest and only return on the first day of the week to continue.
This speaks to what it looks like to cope with trauma. Resting in the routines, liturgies, rituals that are already established and life-giving practices to connect us to ourselves as the world seems to crumble around us. Joseph, the women, the disciples may not know what this strange thing is that is happening. They may not know how to process the death of their king. But, they have the way of life and relationship to God that Jesus cultivated in them. They have the sustaining observances to ground them in themselves and each other. As do we.
Sarah Brock is a Postulant for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Massachusetts and lives in Boston.
Image Credit: My own.