Category Archives: Devotion / Meditation
Love is the active, creative force that repairs life’s injuries and brings new possibilities into being. Love generates life, from the moment of conception to the moment we remember with gratitude and tenderness those who have died. And in the darkest night, when our heart is breaking, love embraces us even when we cannot embrace ourselves. Love saves us and redirects us toward generosity. – Rebecca Parker
Hi, all. I was doing some internet surfing on the subject of this day (holy saturday) and came across this excellent article. In a way, it’s hard to contemplate our Lord being dead, really dead, cold and in a tomb. We tried to grasp that reality last Sunday, in our funeral for Jesus. But today is another day to stop at the tomb, to grieve, to wait — not to rush to the beauty and glory of Easter.
The earth is silent and waits.
Holy Saturday, the day of death
Saturday, April 07, 2007
A few weeks back, the story of the “Jesus tomb” dominated the news cycle. Michael Coren dismantled the claims in these pages, and after several days of near-universal debunking by archaeologists and historians of religion, the story died as the publicity stunt it was. James Cameron did not find Jesus’s tomb, but there once was such a tomb. Not for long, but for long enough.
Today is the day of that tomb. We call it Holy Saturday, and it is the day of stillness, the day of death. Good Friday is the day of dying, which means it is a day of living, for to die well is the crown of a life lived well. Tomorrow is the day of new life, the Easter joy of resurrection, of life on the other side of death. Today, though, is the day of death, the day of the tomb.
The Christian belief is that the tomb was necessary. The atonement offered by Jesus on the Cross was a real sacrifice, a real passion, a real death — and a dead man needs a real tomb. Yet this man, this Jesus of Nazareth, was not to be held by death, for He too was God, the author of life. In the custom of those days, three days was the sure sign that death had wrought its destruction. And so Jesus would spend His three days in the tomb, but only the minimum necessary: Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday dawn. He needed the tomb, but not for a moment more than necessary.
The Gospel of St. John tells us about Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, who died and had been in the tomb four days. Four days. Hopeless. The detail is important, for Jesus had raised others who were freshly dead, in a matter of hours. Perhaps they had not really died. But four days in the tomb is different. Martha makes the point in the earthy style typical of the Gospels: “But Lord, there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” And then Jesus raises him from the dead.
Lazarus comes out of the tomb, but another day he would need it again. Life on Earth is temporary, life in the tomb is permanent. The good news of the great reversal at the heart of the Christian faith is that Jesus came so that life would be permanent, and the tomb only temporary.
So temporary, in His case, that there was no time for a proper anointing, let alone a mausoleum with inscriptions. After the death of Jesus on the Cross, there is a hurry to lay Him in the tomb before the Sabbath begins. Today is that Sabbath, the day of rest marked by the rest in the tomb.
Christians can’t help looking to tomorrow, to Easter, eager for the activity of life over against rest in the tomb. The Church’s liturgy reflects that holy eagerness, as this very evening the great vigils announcing the joy of Easter are celebrated in the cathedrals and churches and chapels of the Christian world. Yet in the eagerness for Easter we should not forget to stop at the tomb.
The late Pope John Paul II once reflected on the reality and finality of the tomb, calling this a “vast planet of tombs.” The Earth is truly our home; we live upon it for a short while, and are laid in it forever. The tomb forms the definitive destination of each life, no matter how many stops there may be on the way. A human life is a longer or shorter journey toward the tomb, and therefore the God who became man needed a tomb. Without one, His life would have been less human.
So the search for the tomb of Jesus is not wrong, just very late. The holy women who went out that first Easter morning found the tomb, but not the living Christ, for one does not find the living among the dead. Since that time Christians have come to worship at the empty tomb just outside the ancient walls of Jerusalem, for that tomb marks the dawn of the day when the tomb itself became not a destination but a way station.
There was a Jesus tomb. But now it is empty, and that emptiness is the promise already given of the day when all the tombs shall be empty.
The message of the cross is sheer folly to those on the way to destruction, but to us, who are on the way to salvation, it is the power of God…. God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish! As God in his wisdom ordained, the world failed to find him by its wisdom, and he chose by the folly of the gospel to save those who have faith. Jews demand signs, Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ nailed to the cross; and though this is an offence to Jews and folly to Gentiles, yet to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, he is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
The folly of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. My friends, think what sort of people you are, whom God has called. Few of you are wise by any human standard, few powerful or of noble birth. Yet, to shame the wise, God has chosen what the world counts folly, and to shame what is strong, God has chosen what the world counts weakness. He has chosen things without rank or standing in the world, mere nothings, to overthrow the existing order. So no place is left for any human pride in the presence of God. By God’s act you are in Christ Jesus; God has made him our wisdom, and in him we have our righteousness, our holiness, our liberation. Therefore, in the words of scripture, ‘If anyone must boast, let him boast in the Lord.’
– 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (Revised English Bible)
I was just thinking a little bit about Epiphany (when Jesus came out to the world as Savior). It still gets dark early this time of year, but this weekend we get to celebrate a million or so watts of bright light – bright, spiritual light — the unveiling of the infinite God in Christ!
For the western church, the coming out was when Jesus “appeared” to the Magi from the east (representing all gentiles, all peoples of the world). For the eastern church, the coming out was when Jesus was baptized by John in the river Jordan and by God by the Spirit descending upon him. But, in either case, it’s Jesus coming out to the world. God is not only come to be with us (Emmanuel, God-with-us), but through Christ has broadcast his love for us to the whole world, has revealed who he really is — the infinite God who is also God-with-us.
And God-with-us is a balmy light we can bask in in the middle of winter and always. Very cool.
If you’re not planning to come already, please join as tomorrow evening as we celebrate the feast of Epiphany!
First, have you ever heard of “The Great O Antiphons”? They’re the source of the verses in the hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel. Since the middle ages, they’ve been said or sung at evening prayer, one each per evening, the seven days leading up to Christmas eve. Each verse highlights a title of the Messiah and a prophecy from Isaiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Gentiles), and O Emmanuel (O God-with-us).
What’s cool is what you can see when you get to Christmas eve. You’ve just sung “O Emmanuel” (O “God with us”). You look back at the verses you’ve sung each day the previous week, and if you read the first letter of each verse (in Latin), you see the letters e r o c r a s formed: Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia which mean “Tomorrow, I will come.” It’s as if Jesus has just rewarded you with a personal whisper: “Tomorrow, I will come.”
That’s neat. The monks probably arranged it that way, but it’s a wonderful little extra-added sign of their faith (and an inspiration to ours). So, after seven days of praying these antiphons, we too can get to the last day, look back, see the message ero cras and rejoice that the Holy One will be here with us tomorrow.
Tomorrow, Christ will come.
Here are the great O antiphons:
December 17 — O SAPIENTIA: O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High and, reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly. Come, and teach us the way of prudence.
December 18 — O ADONAI: O Adonai and Ruler of the House of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and on Mount Sinai gave him your law. Come, and with outstretched arm redeem us.
December 19 — O RADIX JESSE: O Root of Jesse, you stand as a sign for the peoples; before you kings shall keep silence and to you all nations shall have recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay.
December 20 — O CLAVIS DAVID: O Key of David and Scepter of the House of Israel; you open and no one closes; you close and no one opens. Come, and deliver from the chains of prison those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
December 21 — O ORIENS: O Rising Dawn, Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice: come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
December 22 — O REX GENTIUM: O King of the Gentiles and the Desired of all, you are the cornerstone that binds two into one. Come, and save humanity which you fashioned out of clay.
December 23 — O EMMANUEL: O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of the nations and their Savior. Come and save us, O Lord our God.
Hi, everyone. Here’s another one of my favorite devotions from Chris Glaser’s The Word is Out: Daily Reflections on the Bible for Lesbians and Gay Men. This one’s for December 23rd:
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end…. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:8, 13
A chaplain from Detroit began sobbing as conference songleaders taught us a new song about a young gay man named Kurt. On the night of his death, after a difficult visit with his family, he told a minister, “Love heals.” The story, passed along by word of mouth, inspired a hymn writer to compose a song with that refrain: “Love heals.” The chaplain cried because he was the minister to whom Kurt had confided his final thoughts! He did not know that Kurt’s story now lived in a song.
Long after the Bible is gone, God’s Word of love will serve as a healing balm, overcoming pain, division, suffering, and death. God’s love will transcend all words with which we try to capture and express it.
Anyone who has been in the arms of a lover or by the bedside of a loved one who is dying knows that words can never embody the heights and depths of love, love’s rejoicing and love’s suffering. That’s why God’s Word became flesh, because God’s love is too full to remain abstract and must be incarnated in flesh and blood to touch us.
As Kurt prophesied, “Love heals.”
We have faith and hope in your love, God.
Hi, everyone. I’ve been reading Chris Glaser’s The Word is Out: Daily Reflections on the Bible for Lesbians and Gay Men and, well, he’s got some inspiring and empowering stuff in here. I highly recommend it as well as all his books.
Here are his thoughts for yesterday, December 11th:
My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you… — Galatians 4:19
An injury to my back reminded me how a problem in one part of the body affects the whole, causing a generalized malaise. I thought of a man who has always been quick to complain of aches and pains, who nonetheless has outlived the wife who cared for him, and who now depends on a daughter who either fits into the category of codependent or compassionate, depending on who makes the call. The daughter has been severely ill herself, but her father goes on about his own phantom afflictions.
My mind jumped from his body and mine to the Body of Christ, the church. Though it has inflicted real pain upon its lesbian, gay, and bisexual members, it protects those members who are spiritual hypochondriacs: those who claim they will be hurt if we find acceptance in the church. This looks more like codependence than compassion to me.
The pain causing the church’s malaise has been misdiagnosed as homosexuality, when in reality, it is the pain of childbirth: the Body of Christ being formed once more within the church’s womb, a body that includes lesbian, gay, and bisexual members.
Be born once more, O Christ, within us!