The piece to follow was written almost exactly one liturgical year ago: on Holy Saturday, 2012. I was alone that Triduum, a year ago. I have been essentially alone for every Christian holiday since Christian holidays began to mean something to me beyond the turning over of social calendars and subjects of scholarly study — except once. I was not alone on Easter Vigil 2011, when I stood all in white before a baptismal font surrounded by a church full of people, their eyes trained on me and on one other next to me, watching us be born anew. I am a convert, and the Lenten journey and the Holy Week are special to me. And Easter Vigil is more special still: Above and beyond the heights and majesty of meaning it carries for all Christians, for me it’s an anniversary of the best day of my life. The birthday, the dawning light of which I never will forget.
In 2011, I was approaching Easter Vigil counting days, then hours, then minutes. Through the doubts of Thursday, the darkness of Friday, the silence of Saturday I waited, dry mouth and vertigo and fluttering heart, knowing that it was coming — the light. I stood motionless before my white dress, daring not touch it before its time. I stood motionless before the sky. And I thought of a silent Sabbath nearly two millenia ago. I thought of it last year, too. And I think of it now.
I found in my notes this journal entry from a year ago and thought of just how much has changed for me in only a few months. I will not be alone this Triduum, from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday. I’ve been embraced and invited by Sisters, holy and joyful and funny folk. I think they will share my trembling awe and the flutter of my heart. I think they will teach me how not to be alone with it. It will be different.
Yet it will be the same, still, won’t it? The wrenching helplessness of Thursday night, the agony of that Friday — and the empty, stretching darkness of Sabbath until the dawning of the Light so delicate, so spectacular, so intimately familiar that even the memory of the pain, like the pain of childbirth, will have then been pushed into our subconscious minds until a year ahead. It will be the same.
Here is what my Triduum was like a year ago. When I emerge on the other side into the light, this year, I will read it again. I wonder what it will be like.
HOLY SATURDAY, 2012. Mt. Horeb, Third Door on the Right.
ON THE EMPTINESS OF GOOD FRIDAY
What was it like, the sky on that Friday? That Sabbath? On that day when You were dead?
I gazed into the heavens Thursday evening, after sunset, thinking of you and of what you might have been thinking that Thursday night, as your family had fallen asleep around you one by one, and among those who loved you, you were alone. Left alone for the night with your doubts, with your terror, with your grief.
This Thursday, the skies were gloomy and as breathtaking as they always are when my heart and yours bleed into one, and I could feel it – what you felt. I shuddered and shivered, and I just kept repeating one thing that filled my whole being, “I’m with you, my Love. I’ll be with you. You’re not alone.”
If I could have been there, I thought… Would I have stayed awake? They didn’t know this night was any more significant than any other night. They’d had a more filling meal than they usually did, and then you asked them to stay awake with you and left them to go pray, alone. Of course, they fell asleep! What did you expect?
If I’d been there… would I know better? Probably not. Or would I love you enough to look into your face and see that you were scared? That you were deathly scared and needed me with you?
I didn’t sleep this Holy Thursday night. I stayed awake with you till morning, two thousand years too late. The skies were alive and disturbed all night – clouds and stars in a whirl together, shimmering and trembling in the agony of the coming silence. I danced for you through the night and talked to you, and we watched a movie together and looked into each other’s eyes. Two thousand years too late, but I never left you until morning.
And then came Friday afternoon. They call it Good Friday, this horror-filled day. God’s Friday, out of which the Good comes. The Friday of betrayal, torture, and the death of Innocence. Your death. If I’d been there… all I could have done would have been to wipe your feet with my hair and to kiss them and to bury you. If I’d been there, I might not have survived this.
I walked out of my house into the brilliant sun of Good Friday, and life went about me as usual. It was bizarre. On the anniversary of your death, there was life uninterrupted all about me. But my heart struggled to beat, and nothing in the world echoed it. Until I lifted my eyes up to the skies, in the move so habitual to me now, looking for you. And nothing was there. The sky was empty. It was clear. It was even. It was blue. It was simply space, waiting to be filled, and you were not in it. Not a wisp of cloud, not a shimmer of movement, not a hue or a shadow. It was just…background. Emptiness. Absence of things. Was it this way then, too? What did she see when she looked up that day, your Miriam? Did she seek consolation in the heavens and find them dead and empty?
It was Good Friday, and you were not there to look at me. And you were not there to talk to me. I know that yearly cycles of memory are ours to obey, but here it was – an empty sky like I’d never seen it before, empty of you. It was empty all day, not a shred in it. Flat and dead. It was empty all night. It is empty today, the Silent Saturday. I cannot recall ever seeing a completely clear sky for this long in a row. I know what it says to my heart. It says nothing.
But my heart is waiting for you, and the wait is not long. Tonight, it is over. Tonight, my Love is coming back from the dead to shine and to smile upon us. Again. He’s never been gone in this yearly reenactment of things painful and past. He’s just fallen a little silent so our hearts can flutter and remember. So our hearts can flutter and rejoice. Tonight. Tomorrow. He will have risen, the tomb cannot hold the love of my life, for he is all things, Love and Eternity, Human and God. Tonight, I will look up at the sky and see his face. Tomorrow, he will play with the clouds for me. As he always does. For he will rise. For he rises. He has risen. And we with him.
Hello, my one and dearest Love. Smile, for I am with you always, even unto the end of time.