Saturday, April 11, 2009
It is Holy Saturday. I awoke this morning at 5:00 AM to a cloudy day...no sunrise this morning. How fitting for my mood and for the meaning of the day. I fixed my coffee, sat down and read my devotions for the day. But I couldn't get an article off my mind that was in our local newspaper on Friday. It reflected the religious thinking of the secularist mindset so prevalent to day. For two thousand years those of us who call ourselves Christians have argued and fought to maintain the faith, establish doctrines and developed extraordinary theological truths in order to win the world to Christ. In the process we have changed the world.
However in the last 25 years it seems we've shot ourselves in the foot and have lost our way. Somewhere, somehow, we who call ourselves Christian have totally alienated ourselves from the mainstream of modern society, especially in the developed nations. We are off the radar map of most Americans who walk our streets. Oh, we have the big names, the mega-churches, the political religious figureheads, but...but...we've seemed to have lost the skirmish. I say skirmish, because I believe the battle has already been won by Christ but we seem to be locked in turf wars that makes the world roll its eyes.
Secularism rules, Faith has taken a major hit. Yesterday The Mercury News, often called the "Murky News" here in the San Jose area, printed an article by Erik Reese entitled, "Faith's Loss Leaves Only Jesus' Words" . In that editorial, Erik Reese describes his journey from a Baptist background of Faith to one of no faith, only a secular understanding of the life of Christ. To be fair, Mr. Reese believes Jesus was real, and that his teachings were revolutionary. He has a lot of respect for Jesus. But, he sees Jesus, as so many before him have, as a great teacher with a revolutionary idea that got him killed. He sees a Jesus that might bring down the Roman empire and begin the kingdom of God. But as for the resurrection? He doesn't believe in it. He doesn't believe in miracles or much of anything the Bible says.
He joins the countless others who have tried to explain away God by human reasoning. He has replaced the supernatural with another god, himself. For when we raise intellectual reasoning above faith we enter a dead world, with no purpose. The secularist world has no hope, the end has no purpose, death still has a sting. This results in a lifestyle of no room for God, faith, or...Christians.
That's why this Holy Saturday is so important. It is a silent Saturday. The Catholic churches have no masses until the Easter vigil in the evening. The altar, cross, monstrances, tabernacles are covered or hidden. No music...nothing. Jesus is dead. God is dead...or so it seems. It is the picture of a world without God. No faith, no hope, no message. For if we leave Jesus there, in the grave, then Reese is right. We have crucified Christ.
Our minds go back to the day before, Good Friday. There was Christ on the cross. A Benedictine Nun wrote a hymn that contained these words.
"Beneath the cross the Mother kept
Bleak vigil under darkened skies.
Upon the cross her Son hung nailed,
Stabbed through by crowds of hostile eyes"
Sister Genevieve Glen OSB wrote hymn is which can be purchase at the OCP website.
Look at those words, "Stabbed through by crowds of hostile eyes". Isn't that what we as Christians face today. We are the four-letter word of our generation. Faith is a word that has lost its meaning to our society. The death of Jesus, is simply that...death. Death of a great teacher. Well lah-de-dah!!
But look at the words of Pope Benedict XVI. I quote from the Magnificat daily prayer guide.
"Holy Saturday is the day of the 'death of God,' the day which expresses the unparalleled experience of our age, anticipating the fact that God is simply absent, that the grave hides him, that he no longer awakes, no longer speaks, so that one no longer needs to gainsay him but can simply overlook him..."
Isn't that exactly what the secular society is trying to tell us? Isn't that what Reese is saying. God is absent? He no longer awakes? God doesn't speak anymore. Gainsay means to deny. Since he's dead, the world completely eliminates God from their vocabulary. They overlook him and us Christians, because we stand for nothing since our God is dead and hence nothing.
Benedict goes on to say that because Christ walked through and into hell, into our loneliness, into our abandonment, to that place where no voices can reach, he eliminated death. He brought "life in the midst of death, because love dwells in it."
Holy Saturday is quiet on the surface, but deep down Christ was making a racket and booted death into oblivion. And that is the birth of hope on Holy Saturday. Father John Dominic Corbett, O.P. wrote a masterful piece in the Magnificat Lenten prayer guide. He said,
"If we rise in the early enough in the morning we can see the sun rise. If we are sensitive to beauty we are moved by the sight but we are not amazed. We expect the sun to rise and would be amazed, to say the very least, if it did not. We expect and depend upon the world to work in regular ways. If the world did not work in reliable ways we could not make plans or be in control. This is why the modern world not only disbelieves in miracles but also hates the very idea of them. We think we can know what to expect from life. "
He goes on to say that we expect natural events to occur and would be disappointed if they didn't. So the world is amazed and dumbfounded when we Christians echo the words of the angel, "You seek Jesus...the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here."
The secularist mindset cannot handle that so they ignore it. Faith does not fit into the realm of the secular mind. So the secularist is left with nothing. No hope, no possibility of miracles, no risen Christ and no eternal salvation. That is Holy Saturday without God. The absence of God on that day between the death and the resurrection is a reminder to the world that despite all that has taken place and despite the fact they cannot perceive God through reason alone, the story isn't finished. Holy Saturday is a lull to us, but during that lull, our salvation and hope is being born, so that tomorrow, Easter Sunday, we can say with faith and hope.
"He is risen, He is risen indeed." Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is alive and well and has opened deaths door to eternity with him.
Posted by RichnHim at 7:48 AM