Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Anointed with Tears

In this space, in the stillness of Holy Saturday, in the quiet that comes as the Savior is breathless in the tomb, we come like Nicodemus to anoint Jesus. But instead of myrrh, we bring our tears to anoint the Broken One, the Lifeless One, the Dead One.

We bring our tears in grief as we recognize that he embraced the abandonment of the grave for our sake, going down into the depths of death’s totality…into the depths of what it means to be totally forsaken.

We bring our tears in sadness as we remember the fleeing disciples, the one’s he called friends, who cowered in fear.

We bring our tears in thanksgiving for Joseph and Nicodemus, who gently and carefully tended to his broken body.

We bring our tears in weariness as we await Easter’s light to shine once again, both on our own brokenness and on the brokenness of the world.

But we also bring our tears in hopeful gratitude, for it is by enduring abandonment, embracing death in its totality, and entering into Hell that Jesus conquered even the darkest and most depressed corners of creation. A theologian of the early 20th century Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote profoundly on the mystery of Holy Saturday, and the hopefulness that emerges as we realize the depths Jesus was willing to go to in order to find even the most hidden and obstinate of lost sheep: 'On Holy Saturday there is the descent of the dead Jesus to hell, that is…his solidarity ... with those who have lost their way from God ...In this finality (of death) the dead Son descends ... He is…dead together with them. And exactly in that way he disturbs the absolute loneliness striven for by the sinner: the sinner, who wants to be "damned" apart from God, finds God again in his loneliness, but God in the absolute weakness of love who…enters into solidarity with those damning themselves'. By the great mystery of succumbing to death, to its finality and totality, Jesus stands alongside of those who, for whatever reason, can find no way out of the cycles of death and abandonment they have entered into. By his death, Jesus saves those who have lost all hope for their own salvation. And thank God for this, because I know all too well the ways in which I am stuck in my own patterns of death and spiritual isolation.

In this space, in the stillness of Holy Saturday, in the quiet that comes as the Savior is breathless in the tomb, we remember that no matter how far from God our choices may take us, however deadly they may be, we have a Savior who joins us in our darkest moments, and offers us a way out through his own resurrection.

*A sermon preached on Holy Saturday 2016 at Trinity on the Hill Episcopal Church in Los Alamos, NM.  The texts were Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24 1 Peter 4:1-8, and John 19:38-42.

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