Life is on pause, while death keeps churning.
We’ve stowed normalcy away, folding it up and tucking it into the closet for the summer, itching to bring it back out again come fall. We crave its soft boring linens, that comforting frequency of repetition and familiarity, that we can sink into after a long day. The stores, the parks, even Disneyland – they’re all shuttered, and even the streets have none but the misfortunate wanderers.
And yet, while some wait for the return, others are too desperate to care. Death has cut swaths across a once-solid world, slicing apart the tendons that held our society together, crashing us down like a bag of limp bones. Overflowing hospitals, starving families, loved ones who died before saying goodbye.
Could there be reconciliation between the intense desire for normalcy to return and the acute pang of knowing it cannot? That Death is the irreversible termination of life, and that when there is a vaccine, and an economy, there will be those past saving – that when the birds chirp again, they will be chiming in with the church bells.
As Christians, we believe in a life after Death – that Jesus, after his body was scraped off the cross and the ashes were burnt and the grave was sealed, came back. He was the first of the many sons of Man who would cross back over the veil, God’s eventual victory over death.
Easter marks that victory. Good Friday, we’re tempted to say, is the valley before the mountain, the dark before the light. But the Saturday in between, Holy Saturday from various Orthodox traditions, is a time to press pause on the leap from Friday to Sunday.
That day, when good struggled and freed its way from the chains of death, marks the greatest victory in God’s war against sin, yes, but also God’s greatest loss. It is marked by a Father who, for the first time, has lost His Son, and though He has absolute knowledge and faith that Jesus will come back, that’s tomorrow. For today, He sits and hears the emptiness of loneliness for the first time.
That day was marked by a young religion mired in grief, uncertain and doubtful. The disciples stood as the swelling of Christianity seemed to come to an abrupt end, and suddenly the memories of families they’d left come rushing back. Were they just the most recent iteration of a long line of idiots, throwing away everything for a charismatic leader peddling false promises?
It is marked by Mary, who had known that what was hers was not hers, that the son she had raised was the Savior destined to deliver all of humanity from the groanings of sin – but no one else had watched the baby in her arms grow up into the mutilated corpse of her son.
It is marked by the death of God, the crushing of hope, the desolation of spirit, the absence of light.
We know what comes after: the shutters open, the light filters in. People run joyously out into the streets, embracing one another, loving again, living out the fullness of life. Both today, and two thousand years ago, we have that hope.
But let’s not skip to the ending just yet. For though we know tomorrow’s bright, and we know yesterday’s blight, sometimes it’s best to just wallow in the now.