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Holy Week School of Prayer: Saturday

Meditations for Holy Week – Saturday: “I am the Resurrection and the Life”

“Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness.  The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep…”

So begins an ancient homily for Holy Saturday, which we will hear at today’s midday liturgy.  The text dates to the 4th century and was written in Greek; the author is unknown.  In it he describes Christ’s descent to the dead, where he grasps Adam and Eve and frees them from sorrow:

“He (Christ) took [Adam] by the hand and raised him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light…  I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell.  Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.  Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image.  Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in my and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.’”

It is this movement from death to life that we celebrate in the Easter Vigil.

Fellowship with Christ is participation in the divine life which finds its fullest expression in triumph over death.  In John’s Gospel, there is no denial of the general resurrection at the last day; but there is an insistence that for those who are in fellowship with Jesus the life to which that resurrection leads is an already present reality.  “Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live; and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26)

Jesus is the “Resurrection and the Life.”  What does this mean?  It means that our relationship with Jesus cannot be broken.  He is with us always to the end of time and beyond.  The life the Christian lives is nothing less than God’s life, and it will never end.  Physical death cannot destroy it.  Death, for us, is not the final event.  If we are indissolubly connected with Jesus, if eternal life is the life of God, then death is only the gateway to larger life.  At death, “life is changed, not ended.”

Suggestions for prayer:

1. Pray with Eugéne Burnand’s The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection, reflecting on the hopes and fears of the disciples after Jesus’ death.

2. Pray with the story of Mary Magadalene’s encounter with the Risen Lord outside the tomb in John 20:11-18.  Hear the Lord speak your name in love.

3. Consider what in your life is giving you life right now – and give thanks.  Consider what is draining or destroying life in you right now.  What might God’s invitation to ‘new life’ look like in your present circumstances?

4. Contemplate this line from the SSJE Rule (ch. 49: The Hope of Glory): “Our hope lies not in what we have done for God, but in what God has done for us.”  What has God done for you?

5. In John 21:18-23, Jesus foretells Peter’s martyrdom, but suggests that the Beloved Disciple will “abide” or remain with him until he comes.  The spirituality of the Beloved Disciple is a “spirituality for the long haul.”  What, in your experience, sustains the new life within us over the long haul?

See other days offerings:

Peter and John racing to tomb

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