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For some time death remains very hypothetical in the human panorama of life. After the brief immortality of youth, and with our first experience of losing someone we love, death seems an increasing possibility. Even when we have the inexplicable grace of accompanying someone we love to the point where ‘it is accomplished’ and they breathe their last as we hold their hand, the actual moment falls like the blade of a guillotine. As on Holy Saturday, there is a great silence, absence and bottomless emptiness.
The way a person dies can expand the portals through which the grace of death – confronting us with the barest face of truth – sweeps over us. As they hang on their cross waiting, they may be peaceful, confident, accepting and even conspicuously full of wonder at what they are seeing and being summoned to and welcomed by. We may not see it exactly as they do but we see something of it by seeing that they see it. For a moment, because of our irritating ego, we may even feel left out and forgotten as they are irresistibly drawn into what they are seeing. When they take their last breath, this shared vision appears to end, like the falling of a stage curtain at the end of a performance. We are left alone with our memory, in an ever- depleted world, as they pass beyond all the ways we have grown used to recognising them.
No more powerful words have ever been written that communicate this wonder, peace with pain and searing grief than those we heard yesterday. We see what they saw of what he was seeing through a memory passed on by those who were there and suffered changed by what they saw, but could not explain. Unlike most memories, however, it did not start to weaken from the day after and eventually fail and enter the great forgetfulness that consumes everything. The hand we are holding begins to lose its human warmth, still precious but no longer belonging to the person we loved and lost.
As she wept, she peered into the tomb.. ‘they have taken my Lord away and I do not know where they have put him’.
Holy Saturday is a state of mind: a neutral zone between what we know and do not know. It is too full of emptiness and the absence is too present and the silence is deafening.
We should not imagine anything. It is a day to make meditation the priority.
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2024
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