What are the tombs in my life? I have been pondering this since Holy Saturday – a day I used to believe got swallowed between the desolation of Good Friday and consolation of Easter Sunday. But I now know that Holy Saturday represents a powerful bridge between both desolation and consolation – waiting.
Waiting is that in-between place I’ve always loathed, partly out of impatience, mostly out of fear. The tension of being in hiatus – suspended indefinitely – between “then” (the past) and “when” (the future) is agonizing. I’ve been somewhere I can clearly define and identify, somewhere that has led me to today. But today does not guarantee an understanding of where I’m going.
I feel stuck, caught in the space between hope and fear – fear of what might happen disastrously – and hope that life ahead may be more beautiful than what I’ve experienced before.
When Jesus’ body lay in the tomb, His spirit was still at work conquering the perils of evil, reclaiming the keys to Hell’s gate, releasing the souls from captivity who had died before that day. His work was then invisible, hidden in the tomb, a mere seed germinating beneath frozen earth.
To the world, Jesus was gone. All was lost, hopeless. Desolation set in where hope did not prevail.
The tomb is dark, empty, quiet. We are tempted to abandon the belief that we will see light again, yet we hold on. We wait. For what? We wait for God’s promise and timing. We know neither when He will bid us to move, nor what He moves us toward, only that it is another step closer to the ultimate Resurrection, the culmination of every tense emotion of uncertainty and fear and joy and hope.
Jesus’ tomb was empty only of His Body. But in His glorified form He remained outside it, close by. And angels guarded it with their celestial presence and protection. Mary Magdalene only noticed the emptiness. That is why she wept. She fixed her heart on the expectation that she would see Jesus as He appeared to her before His death – except death necessarily changes us.
Death creates a space where new life can flourish, but it takes an entirely different form.
I’m like Mary sometimes. I focus on the great losses of my life, even the small rejections or emptying of self I care not to admit every day. In seeing the tomb, I miss the gift of opportunity. Every empty space is an invitation for fulfillment.
There is value in sitting within our emptiness, the places where we’ve loved and lost, or searched but never found. Tombs sometimes feel hollow, cold, vast. It’s okay to spend time contemplating sorrow over what feels and seems like nothing at all.
At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge the potential and to accept the invitation of the Resurrected Jesus whom I do not immediately recognize. He is asking me, “Whom are you looking for? Why are you weeping?” I can’t notice the invitation to something greater while I mourn over what once was and is no more.
The tomb is a sacred space of self-emptying. It is where I hand myself over to God and He empties me of self. And I experience the temporal pain of having lost my self, my ego. That is my tomb experience. But an emptying of self, however painful, is the prerequisite for becoming.
I become my True Self when God is resurrected in me. I am the same, yet changed, just as Jesus was the same God-Man but in different form.
The tomb gives way to all that might one day bloom in me.