Earlier this week, many around the world were aghast as we watched live scenes of Notre Dame Cathedral burning in Paris. The church is a visible symbol of the extraordinary artistic beauty of which inspired humanity is capable. It is a living symbol of centuries of saints and sinners who found sustenance in faith. Most importantly, it is a sacred space where life in Christ is celebrated. Our hearts ached at the fear of its precious loss.
In Paris as visitors and Parisians looked on cries of “Mon Dieu!” (My God!) as the spire fell, weeping, and hymns quietly & reverently sung were heard in the streets. There also were periods of profound silence in this bustling city as observers took in the significance of the passion their beloved “lady” was enduring.
Remember the sorrow you felt as you witnessed Notre Dame burning and the burnt shell the morning after. Now think of Jesus who was tortured, crucified, and placed in his mother’s arms upon removal from the Cross. All our fears and sorrows in seeing the burning of Notre Dame in Paris are but a glimpse of what Mary and the disciples must have experienced. If you sensed the grief and disbelief at such loss held by so many around the world the morning after the fire in Paris, then you have a glimpse of what Holy Saturday was for Jesus’ friends as he lay in the tomb. There must have been hours of hushed, stunned silence. So, likewise there is sacred silence on this Holy Saturday. There is no Saturday Mass today. We quietly await the new light of Easter beginning at tonight’s Great Vigil.
This day has long been one of my favorites of the Church year because of the silence. It is one of the few days when I try to be completely quiet and just listen. My words are no longer necessary for The WORD has spoken most profoundly and I must contemplate that Word of Love. Today as we contemplate Christ’s Passion and Death we are brought to the tomb of stunned silence much like those people of Paris earlier this week and so we wait in silence. Wait for a Word of Holy Hope, a glimpse of some new light.
All of our concerns, struggles, doubts, sins were taken up by Jesus on Calvary’s Cross and were taken to the tomb of resting peace and quiet waiting to be brought to resurrected life. We await the New Dawn, a light so brilliant we can barely comprehend. With the dawning of the first Easter candle by the grace of God, we become overwhelmed by its mysterious and miraculous brilliance. May the Passion of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, be ever in our hearts and bring us to everlasting life!
Ernie Rivard is a Passionist Associate. He has served as Pastoral Assistant at two New England parishes and in the roles of administrator, associate retreat director and retreat director at Passionist retreat centers over twenty-three years. He is now retired from full-time ministry to spend more time with his family, golf, and reading & research into history, spirituality and contemporary Church issues. He continues to offer occasional retreats and days of reflection.