Yesterday, Good Friday, we commemorated the crucifixion of Jesus. Tonight (for those of us attending Easter Vigils) or tomorrow morning, we will celebrate the Resurrection.
What about today? For many people, Holy Saturday is simply the day on which we ready the church for the Easter Vigil and do our shopping for the Easter feast. I’d like to invite us to something more on this day.
In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius encourages us to take time in the space between Jesus’ death and His Resurrection, believing it is necessary for us to truly experience Jesus’ death and absence before we can fully appreciate the significance of His rising for us. The "tomb day" experience of the Spiritual Exercises is thus an invitation to envision a world without Jesus.
This is a lot more difficult for us than it was for Jesus’ disciples. For us, the progression from Good Friday to Easter Sunday is almost seamless. We live in a world infused with resurrection, so we never question it. The Resurrection is a given.
Do we really appreciate what we have? Do we have a sense of what life would be if Jesus did not rise on the third day?
The disciples did have a very real sense of this. For them, the death of Jesus was the end. Three years of following Jesus and it was all over. Imagine what they experienced! Fear - that everything Jesus had said and done ended at his death. Powerlessness - believing they had been abandoned by God. The finality of loss - as the stone was put in front of the tomb. Confusion – what would they do now?
Tomb day in the Spiritual Exercises invites us to get in touch with that sense of loss, to try to understand what it would mean to live in a world without Jesus. Ignatius’ instruction for prayer during this day is to be with the disciples and with Mary in their grief over losing Jesus. To be with them as they take Jesus’ body off the cross, wash and anoint it, place it in the tomb, and watch the rock being rolled across the tomb’s entrance. To be with the other disciples afterwards, cowering in the upper room. One instruction for the tomb day experience says, “Let the effect of Jesus’ death permeate your whole being and the world around you for the whole day.”
I encourage you, amidst the preparation for your Easter celebrations, to take some time today to do exactly that: let Jesus’ death permeate your being; experience, as much as you are able, a world without Jesus.
Susan J. Stabile
Professor of Law and Faculty Fellow for Spiritual Life
University of St. Thomas School of Law