On Holy Thursday we witnessed Christ’s spiritual and mental agony as He prepared for the horror of the crucifixion. On Good Friday we remembered His suffering and death as we stood with Mary and John beneath the cross. On Holy Saturday, all was silent. Christ has died, and we wait at the tomb, the Earth is desolate and our hearts are empty. We entered into the mystery of death. Christ is dead, exactly the same way each of us will be dead. We don’t often think about dying, but we very seldom think about being dead. When we are confronted with the body of a dead person we are confronted with the reality of death – its finality and its banality. With death, life ends, the person that once was, is no more. It brings home the reality that our time here is finite and that death steals life and all that life means.
Death is our ultimate fear. All other fears are in some way connected to the truth that we will one day experience losing our life. This fear is actively at work in the depths of our consciousness and motivates so much of our anxiety, our anger and our striving for wealth, success and recognition. As we age and experience the diminishing of our physical and mental capacities, the limiting of the possibilities that seemed so infinite in our youth, and the narrowing of our horizons, we realise that time is indeed relentless and that we are inescapably moving towards death.
However, to sit with Jesus’ body in the tomb and honestly confront the reality of death and allow it’s awfulness to penetrate our defences, is to allow the reality and the significance of Christ’s resurrection to take on a new meaning for us. It is the indispensable preparation for hearing with real joy the Easter proclamation – He is Risen, Alleluia! Now Easter becomes about much more than beautiful liturgies, Easter eggs and flower bedecked altars – it becomes a moment of genuine joy. Joy that comes from the realisation that if the resurrection is indeed true, then there is a God, and He is a loving God who has given us in the fact of eternal life the most wonderful gift imaginable – the fullness of life. We experience a sense of relief and liberation when we know now that we are saved from the ultimate power of sin and of death. If Jesus lives, I will live and you will live! The desolation we knew when we contemplated death at the tomb, has been overcome and transformed into a marvellous joy.
If we have engaged fully in the mysteries of Christ’s suffering and death, then we are able to celebrate with real joy His resurrection. If we have contemplated death and all its desolate meaninglessness, then the gift of eternal life becomes a life-changing reality which liberates us to live our lives with meaning and depth. If we no longer live in dread of death and look toward resurrection and eternal life, we are released from the powerful inner forces that feed off this dread, and we become free to live for life and love. The same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead begins to work within us, enabling us to live each day with courage and freedom, living for God and others – living in the joy and peace for which we were created.