Man, it’s quiet these days… mostly. Most people get the idea that staying in means staying well. And not just for ourselves but for the benefit of the people we share this soil with. In particular staying in and observing the lockdown rules is a practical way to help our brave front line staff in shops, social care, amenities and of course in our health services. It’s right and proper. It’s the way it has to be. But…
Man, it’s quiet these days! Our routines are changed. Life, for a lot of people, has shrunk. There is less to do. There are fewer people to see. There are limited activities from which to draw in order to keep the mental health ticking over. Many experience this time as a time of emptiness. This is probably most critically felt in the absence of loved ones- family or friends. I read someone on twitter saying they even missed the repetitive conversations with taxi drivers! ‘Is it busy?’ ‘What time do you finish?’ Oh, how the banal would be so much more interesting today. We’ve got a collective case of the empty day lockdown blues!
Emptiness is the word I associate with Holy Saturday as well. I imagine the friends and family of Jesus were devastated by his loss and felt the emptiness in the deepest parts of themselves. Most of us do not need to imagine how that feels at all. We know the deep wound that grief inflicts. And we know the emptiness of the loved one gone.
Holy Saturday is the only day in the year for Catholics when there is no Mass. Indeed, the Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist, is removed from churches and reposed elsewhere. Why does that happen? Well, it is a symbol and a reminder of the emptiness felt when Jesus died and was taken away from his friends to be buried. It is also a reminder of his absence from this world as he freed all righteous people from the underworld.
Every Holy Saturday I have formed a habit of going to my local church of St Teresa of Avila and just sitting in the emptiness, looking at the open door of the empty tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament would normally be. I would sit and I would allow myself to feel the emptiness. I would allow myself to miss him; to miss Jesus. I would imagine a life without his companionship for a while. I’d be sad and I’d also remember the great gift that faith is and the even greater gift that an all-loving God is. It has been a lonesome but beautiful habit to have. This year, Holy Saturday is even more empty than usual. We can’t go inside our churches. They are rightly closed in order to protect life. Difficult and all as this is for some folk, I believe it is what Jesus would have us do.
The emptiness of this period of lockdown is in itself an extended Holy Saturday for all of society as we wait. For most of us that is all we can do; wait. And waiting is hard. It gives space to look at ourselves and our lives with a little more clarity than when life is busy. It often confronts us with thoughts and feeling we have been avoiding or ignoring. This may be just the thing we need, however, because the waiting also allows us time to make changes where needed. The waiting can be a fertile time where relationships are rekindled, where forgiveness is given freely and where love can blossom.
An old story goes that a man went on a quest to find a very wise and holy person to ask what the meaning of life was. He trekked for many weeks through all sorts of difficult terrain and eventually found the wise person. Exhausted, he asked, ‘Wise one. Please tell me. What is the meaning of life?’ The wise person said, ‘This too will pass.’ The man looked on in horror at the simplicity of the lesson and resented the wise person for wasting his time after all the energy he had expended. He went away disappointed and angry. The wise person smiled, knowing that this anger and disappointment too would pass.
Holy Saturday seemed like an end to the friends of Jesus. As it turned out it was a period of waiting for a new time to begin. All things pass, as the wise person in our story said, and Holy Saturday will pass- Easter day will come. This time we are in will pass. Just as it was two thousand years ago there will be suffering and death. But that is never the end of the story. Jesus rose! I believe it. I believe death is but a door we go through to get to the evermore. I believe it will be good.
These empty day lockdown blues will pass. We must wait and all play our part in saving as many lives as possible by staying in when we can, going out when we have to and waiting the rest of the time. And when these blues pass, there will be a rising. It will be a rising of people in love. It will be a rising of people who want a just and fair society. It will be a rising towards the kingdom of God on earth.
Peace be with you all.