The Fortieth Day of Lent: Holy Saturday
An excerpt from “Reliving the Passion”
by Walter Wangerin, Jr.:
“Mary Magdalen and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.”
Stone cold. And the stone is closed. Where do I go from here? Nowhere. Back to the city. Which is a nowhere now. The Master isn’t there. The Master is not. Everywhere is nowhere. There’s nowhere to go.
What do I do? I don’t know what to do. Nothing. The Sabbath has started. So what? So, if I pray I’ll be mouthing the sounds. Nothing. And if I pray a vain repetition, what then? Will Heaven be offended? Well, Heaven has offended me!
Joseph’s stone is like the period that stops the sentence. Boom! – the story’s done. And when the story’s over, the very air is empty. No place for me. No home for my soul. Silence. Why do I keep standing here? It’s dark. It’s midnight. Everyone’s gone home. Except me. Abandoned. Nothing.
Why can’t I leave the tombs? Because the whole world is a graveyard. Because this is the one that has my Lord. Jesus! Jesus! Without you I am a nothing in a nowhere! You are dead. My world is annihilated. And still – I love you.
Mary, do this: Even in your despair, observe the rituals. It is the Sabbath, then let it be the Sabbath after all. Pray your prayers. However hollow and unsatisfying they may feel, God can fill them. God is God, who made the world from nothing – and God as God can still astonish you. He can make of your mouthings a prayer – and of your groanings a hymn. Observe the ritual. Prepare your spices. Return on Sunday, even to this scene of your sorrow, expecting nothing but a corpse, planning nothing but to sigh once more and to pay respects.
One story is done indeed, my Magdalene. You’re right. You’ve entered the dark night of the soul. But another story – one you cannot conceive of (it’s God who conceives it!) – starts at sunrise. And the empty time between, while sadly you prepare the spices, is in fact preparing you! Soon you will change. Soon you will become that holy conundrum which must baffle and antagonize the world: a saint. Saint Mary Magdalene. “As dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” – that host of contradictions, the beauty of Spirit, the puzzle of all who know him not, the character of saints! Come again on Sunday, Mary, and see how it is that God makes saints. Come, follow.