The Dark Night of the Collective Soul
A Reflection by Br. Uriel, CMJ
On Holy Saturday, The Word is—temporarily—silenced.
Until recently, the extent to which absolutely everything is a Holy Saturday Experience has been hidden by our consensual participation in the shared dream that the world was predictable. Surely, we—so conflicted about what is right and how exactly to do it while under physically dangerous circumstances—are in an uncanny intimacy with the disciples, hunkered down on Holy Saturday. We have watched our whole world suddenly becoming upended. We have watched as the whole system upon which we secured ourselves has been revealed to be nothing more than a rickety scaffolding, teetering on the verge of collapse. We, as the disciples did, feel the sudden weight of our associations.
Remember: Jesus hadn’t created Easter yet on Holy Saturday. Saturday, as we know, in Jesus’s Jewish tradition, is the day of rest. Immediately before the Holy Bride of the Sabbath—his death—arrives, having performed his vow before the Lord, Jesus pledges: “It is finished,” and enters into the Bridal Chamber of rest.
Easter Sunday—the first day of the week—ushers in the new creation modeled on the New Adam, namely the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a total change from the world before the moment when Mary Magdalene dared to say, “I have seen him! He called my name!”
How easy it is for us who live in a world, newly revealed as a long Easter Saturday, to hear how disgusting it would likely sound to hear this obviously deranged, obviously grief-mad affirmation.
Yet they did hear it. Not all the same way, and not all at the same time. Easter, in all its terror and all its trembling hope, found them, though. Mary Magdalene was not the only one who experienced Easter, a Reality beyond philosophical deconstructions or orthodox credal affirmations. She was, it seems, the first one to give it the gift of language.
The church has celebrated the first Easter since her earliest days, but she has also always been in the habit of waiting for and proclaiming the Easter event as an inauguration of a fullness that will follow. The only language in which the Mystery of the Resurrection may be spoken of is the language of poetry. All mundane utterances fall prostrate before the Risen Lord, but poetry finds her tongue loosed in the outpouring of divinity that is the presence of the Eternal Christ, transcendent over death and hell.
When this Holy Saturday ends, we must let our tongues be loosed. For one of the ways that Holy Saturday manifests itself is in the constriction of language – in the feeling that to express anything at all worth saying is insurmountable. Grief too great to bear cannot be talked about. It may only be wept.
The dark road of Holy Saturday is ours to walk while the Word is—temporarily—silenced. On Holy Saturday, no Word comes forth to give voice to our deep sense of loss.
When we are ready, though, new language and means of expression will come out of the tomb with Jesus. Heretofore, we will have had the experience of our death-in-grief as solitude, wherein we perceive the Word as dead with and within us. However, when Easter dawns, and the Word rises, we will find that just as our death-in-grief is not a solitary experience, likewise Christ as the new creation—HaAdam (הָאָדָם) in whom there is neither male nor female—rises as a Unified Human; neither is Christ risen exclusively as a singular historical human, nor, thankfully, only with those who are worthy of reward!
When this Easter dawns upon us, we must not hold back the New Word, the New Song, that emerges from the tomb of our collective grief. But until then, it is Holy Saturday: the sacred time when Death (neither/nor) almost vanquishes Life (both/and). It is the Dark Night of the Soul, the mysterium tremendum et fascinans—the unbearable and fascinating Mystery—through which, if we will have Easter in its fullness, we must pass in all its Holy Terror.