A reading from the Gospel of Matthew:
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
As seminarians, we were trained to remain at the gravesite after the family had gotten back into their cars to leave the cemetery. Our instructions were to remain, fully vested, next to the grave until the casket was completely covered with dirt. When the funeral director positioned flowers around the fresh grave and the grave was officially closed we were free to leave.
As I reflect on the scripture from Matthew about the burial of Jesus, the image that stands out for me is of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary sitting, silently waiting. Once the stone was rolled over and the grave was sealed they remained at the tomb in what must have been heartbreaking grief. Uncertainty, ambiguity…
On Holy Saturday we too are invited to enter the emptiness of Holy Saturday as we await Easter. Here we are acutely aware that there is no way around the tomb. Here, in this liminal space, we know in our souls that the way to resurrection is by going to the tomb.
I offer the following prayer spoken each Holy Saturday in my tradition.
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the
crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and
rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the
coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of
life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
My sense is that this Holy Week in 2020 we may want to rush on to resurrection and the glory. We know all too well discomfort of not knowing if the latest end date of sheltering in place will be extended. We are surrounded in uncertainty. Will we or someone we know contract the virus? Will those who contract the disease be able to avoid death? If there is a death can we have a funeral to celebrate that person’s life? We are literally living in the in-between space between crucifixion and resurrection. We have no idea what tomorrow will bring. I, personally, am deeply concerned about my registered nurse daughter who is 36 weeks pregnant working in a nursing home in North Carolina. I’m sure you have your own concerns. So, what are we to do? What will sustain us in our waiting? Prayer? Scripture? Zoom connections?
I, like many of my colleagues, return to Paul’s writings in Romans 8 so often read at funerals,
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Be safe, say your prayers, and know that God IS here,
Rev. Hazel Smith Glover
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church