Saturday, April 15, 2017



Matthew’s account of Good Friday ends with these verses:

So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. (Mt 27:59-61)

During our simple, somber service of Vigils this Holy Saturday morning, we monks took up our post, sitting beside the tomb with Mary Magdalene. As we prayed the psalms, I began wondering what was going through her mind as she sat there? What was she feeling? I don’t imagine that on that first Holy Saturday she was waiting for her beloved Jesus to rise from the dead and walk out of the tomb. She must have been overwhelmed by grief.

But, then, what about us, who have already encountered the Risen Lord? What is it that we are waiting for as we sit beside the sealed tomb with her? Certainly, we’re waiting for Easter morning to come, so that we can celebrate and sing and shout “Alleluia!” But, the Paschal Mystery (Christ’s passion, death and resurrection) should also make a difference in the way we live every day.

The expression “expectant church” came to mind as the rising sun was brightening the stained-glass windows. Although “expectant church” has several meanings, I simply reflected on the expression from the point of view of the Latin verb expectare, “to await.”

I began to ask myself if we Christians look like an “expectant church” when we settle into a comfortable truce with the materialism and self-centered culture around us. Do we act like an “expectant church” when we quarrel among ourselves over liturgical practices or changing translations of texts? The expression “sacristy church” came to mind as well -- a church that is turned inward, concerned only about itself and its inner power struggles and institutional concerns.

Another expression occurred to me, from the prayer after the “Our Father” at mass: “as we wait in joyful hope.” That became my prayer as we finished the psalms and readings of Vigils.  

Lord, help your church to be a sign of joyful hope to the world. Help her, by her actions, to be a church of the poor, of the alien, of the persecuted, and especially a church that is a sign for those whose lives are filled with darkness and despair. Help us to be “Easter People,” each of us an Alleluia from head to toe, even as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Alleluia.



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