Holy Saturday

Joseph took the body of Jesus, wrapped it in a clean linen sheet, and laid it in his own unused tomb. 

    A few years ago, I found my life in ruins. I had lost more than I thought I could lose, both professionally and personally. I was cut off from my community, from my home, from the person I had dreamed of being. I had no idea what to do, no way to to go forward. No path.

     And so I took refuge in a monastery beloved of my heart. Five times a day, we would gather in the chapel and chant psalms. We chanted them for hours. On the wall, there was an immense cross, nearly life-sized: Christ twisted in agony against the dark wood. I used to stare at it in frustration. I knew what the cross felt like; what I needed was the path to resurrection. But on that, the scripture was stubbornly silent.

     Today, on Holy Saturday, we dwell in that reticence. Yesterday, we saw Christ laid in the tomb. Tomorrow, we shall see him rise. But the one thing we each need to learn at some point in our lives — how to find life again: what does that look like? And how do we find it?

    The only way we can: we die. I do not mean that you should end your life, but there is a point at which each of us is called to lay down the person we have been, lay it on the altar and not look back, so that Christ can bring to birth someone who is not constrained by the person he no longer needs us to be. For much of our lives, this is a gradual process, and organic: the child leaves behind the ways of infancy as simply as breathing; it is just what happens. But, sometimes, that process of allowing ourselves to be stripped by the hand of God needs to be deliberate. Sometimes, we need to lay down everything, pray, and wait. 

    Wait, and trust in the slow mercy of God. Wait, and trust that what is being taken from you was always broken, even if it was a dear to you as breathing. Wait, and allow the green shoots of new life to appear: don’t breathe on them; don’t analyze them; don’t try to inhabit them too soon. Just let them be. Your hands are not yet tender enough to foster their well-being. God will take care of them; he planted them, after all. It is God who works in you, in ways you cannot yet understand.

There is life on the far side of the grave. When you look back, you will see that the tomb Christ lay in was your own.

—  Deborah Meister



  1. Reply
    Vivian Lewin says:

    Thank you for this call to attend today to the hiddenness at the heart of [it].

  2. Reply
    Shirley newell says:

    At first I was put off….sceptical…is this some super R.C. ….monastery chanting psalms five times a day….but I persisted…..yes, i liked the analogy of dying to that former person….it would be a miracle to lay off that old stubborn, person with all those qualities I don’t like….but, yes God being my helper I will try. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Deborah Meister says:

      Thank you for hanging in there with it. And, actually, it was an Episcopalian monastery! So, not RC at all.

  3. Reply
    Beth says:

    Deborah, I’m sorry that you had to go through that darkness, but you are so right that those experiences of dying to our old selves — that we would never ask for — are the ones that bring rebirth. Your phrase “the tomb Christ lay in was your own” will stay with me.

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