April 7, 2012

Sabbato Sancto

I have always loved Holy Saturday. The emptiness of it just speaks to my praying heart. "There is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep," says the homily in the Office of Readings today. Jesus Christ sleeps in our death. As both a good Jew in his humanity and as the one God in his divinity, he rests on the Sabbath, on this last day.

I used to notice the emptiness of this day most strongly when I was a parish priest. There was hardly anything to do, that is, apart from decorating, rehearsals, and set-up. No morning Mass, no possibility of a wedding or funeral, not even much to eat given that I try to accept the Church's exhortation to keep the paschal fast. Just prayer, and the cauterizing quiet of contemplation:

"What a holocaust takes place in this steady burning to ashes of old worn-out words, cliches, slogans, rationalizations! The worst of it is that even apparently holy conceptions are consumed along with all the rest. It is a terrible breaking and burning of idols, a purification of the sanctuary, so that no graven thing my occupy the place that God has commanded be left empty: the center, the existential altar which simply 'is.'" (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, 13)

Let us rest with the Lord in the renovating emptiness of this Sabbath. In it we sit, once again for the first time, in the last day of the old creation. As this last day ends with the setting of the sun, let us go with quiet and open hearts to the great Vigil that opens the new creation. Let us hear the effective word of God calling us forth from the water as his new creatures, and let us know our renovated hearts bursting with the Easter slogan, sursum sunt quaerite, 'seek the things that are above.'


Greg said...

Beautiful reflection that captures the moment so well. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Thankyou. You touch on why this day is a gift. I am reading R.S.Thomas' 'Via Negativa', which is a fine complement to your post.