Holy Saturday: what a weird liturgical moment. It’s that unexplained double-space between the psalmists lament and prayer of thanksgiving. Just a blank line with no text and everything changes. In the cosmos, we know Jesus is defeating the forces of sin and death, but we’re waiting. Holding our breath, crying, hoping, despairing who knows how to even go about feeling today? I read a great poem for good friday several years ago, Salvator Mudi Via Crucis– and in my sweet-I’m-a-sophmore-in-college-with-lots-of-feelings head decided the best way to process holy saturday would be a poem.

Here is the good poem: (about Good Friday)

Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis
Denise Levertov

Maybe He looked indeed
Much as Rembrandt envisioned Him
In those small heads that seem in fact
Portraits of more than a model.
A dark, still young, very intelligent face,
A soul-mirror gaze of deep understanding, unjudging.
That face, in extremis, would have clinched its teeth
In a grimace not shown in even the great crucifixions.
The burden of humanness (I begin to see) exacted from Him
That He taste also the humiliation of dread,
Cold sweat of wanting to let the whole thing go,
Like any mortal hero out of his depth,
Like anyone who has taken a step too far,
And wants herself back.
The painters, even the greatest, don’t show how,
In the midnight Garden,
Or staggering uphill under the weight of the Cross,
He went through with even the human longing
To simply cease, to not be.
Not torture of body,
Not the hideous betrayals humans commit
Nor the faithless weakness of friends, and surely
Not the anticipation of death (not then, in agony’s grip)
Was Incarnation’s heaviest weight,
But this sickened desire to renege,
To step back from what He, Who was God,
Had promised Himself, and had entered
Time and flesh to enact.
Sublime acceptance, to be absolute, had to have welled
Up from those depths where purpose
Drifted for mortal moments.

 

I’m a terrible poet. But I still struggling to get my hands on Holy Saturday and some of these same themes keep popping up. Don’t judge this on the theological terminology or style of poetry, please: I was 19 and painfully fond of parenthetical asides in poetry when I wrote it. I have no idea why. But I’m still kinda partial to the ideas. Anyway- this one’s mine:

Salvatore Mundi: Silence
3.22.05

What came then?
How was it next: when the Face had gone?
Because, what can it really mean;
what remains when the fingers and toes seem to have abandon us?
And what are we to do on the day He leaves his definition
to be a vestige of a oddly written history.
How can this silence, this vast frightening nothingness
signal the return to omnipresence, to Love?
Maybe it is true, their stories of the veil rent into pieces;
perhaps the sky did turn black,
and boil with unspeakable glory (as so many imagine).
But i saw, as Elijah touched, we too will hear.
As the beloved one and the rock, we will see
He is not there.
The crashing and rending and quaking of words is not Him.
He is the silence
where the Woman weeps.
He is the silence
in the rooms of the helpless clinging to one another, locked away.
He Was; Is; will Be, the door never opened.
(the need for such a movement, now dismissed.)
The gates splinter under the weight of glory:
Creator breaks into creature: then assumed, now redeemed.
“It is finished”:

silence.

 

Kissing the Cross

April 22, 2011

I’ve had the delight this Triduum* to spend my liturgical hours with my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. It’s important for me, as a liturgist, to learn about the tradition of the church that predates my own. Also, it’s a wonderful gift to celebrate our Lord’s Passion (and soon resurrection!) with my ND family. Yesterday we celebrated Maundy Thursday with the washing of feet and the Eucharist in the evening and a late night Tenebrae. Anybody who thinks young people don’t like liturgy, make a pilgrimage to ND during Triduum. There will not be an empty seat or place on the floor to kneel. I’ve never seen churches this full… seriously, never. Most of us aren’t exactly going gray yet, either (o.k. I have found one little gray hair but its gone now!).  But back to the main reflection.

I sometimes struggle with the ecumenical question. Loving the church gets hard sometimes, and that’s just on day-to-day stuff. Schism makes such love quite a bit harder, and frustrates me to the point of tears sometimes (a fact to which my poor boyfriend can attest). My confessor reminds me that schism is a sin, and should continue to break my heart, and the hearts of all people in the church (this includes the Church). But constantly breaking hearts grow heavy. And I have struggled, very much uphill, this Lenten season, and I expected Triduum to make my struggle only that much worse. But, quite the opposite, I  found my relief (dare I say, my present help in time of trouble?) this afternoon in the most unexpected of places.**

This afternoon we commemorated our Lord’s death on the cross, venerating the wood of the cross and celebrating communion.***  At the veneration of the cross, the liturgy reminded me that Easter hope dawns eternally for Christ’s pierced body the church, because we all kiss the same Cross. The Cross draws all persons baptized into the death of Christ, to adore its blessed wood. A tree of infamy, the cross looms above us all, reminding us not only of our brokenness but more importantly of the ultimate triumph of The Broken Body. The powers of this world seek to destroy that Body by starving, beating, humiliating, piercing, suffocating, and finally killing it. Yet, on this (truly) Good day, the Cross reminds us that upon its graceful branches hung our salvation, hung the answer to schism, hung the broken body that heals our wounds.

Crux Spes Unica: The Cross, our Only Hope.
Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us now, in this hour of death.

Have a holy Triduum and a truly joyful eastertide, my friends.

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*Triduum concludes Holy Week and includes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday culminating in the Easter Vigil. It’s a fancy way of saying “three days,” because for Christians these are the three days in which Christ’s gift of love in the incarnation culminates in the death and resurrection.

**Yeah, not unexpected to anybody else, but I didn’t see it coming.

***For my non-RC-liturgically-formed friends, celebrating communion and the Eucharist are liturgically different. The liturgy of the Eucharist includes the entire Eucharistic Prayer, while the communion is a briefer liturgy with the distribution of already consecrated bread. The real presence is the same, the bread is the same, it’s just consecrated somewhere or somewhen else. In this case, it was consecrated at our Maundy Thursday service yesterday.