“Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph), and Salome. They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Then they and many other women had come with him to Jerusalem. . ..Joseph [of Arimathea] bought a long sheet of linen cloth, and taking Jesus’ body down from the cross, he wrapped it in the cloth and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid” (Mark 15:40-41, 46-47).
At sunset the Sabbath began; the first Vigil Saturday. What did they do that Sabbath? How did the mother of God, who had just watched her son die, and these other women who had followed him right up to the cross spend that Saturday? Did they go to synagogue? Did they say the prayers? Did they take part in the joy of the Exodus? Would they go to the Temple? Would they worship side-by-side with the people who had condemned and cheered her Son and their Savior to death? Would they too pray Jesus’ prayer, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do?” Or was their grief and anger too great? Did they just stay inside, holding on to each other, comforting each other as best they could? They saw where Joseph buried Jesus. They knew he did not have the time to properly anoint and wrap the body of their Beloved. They knew what they would do the first thing Sunday morning. But what did they do that long, long Saturday?
I know the Resurrection happened. I know tomorrow I will celebrate the Resurrection with my brothers and sisters in Christ. And this day is a long day for me. The waiting. Living an entire day between the last breath of death and the first breath of resurrection. It is hard. It is long. My first reminder is during morning prayers when I see there is no Gospel reading. There will be no Gospel reading tonight when I pray Compline. This is the only day of the year, we do not read the Gospel. The Gospel is in the grave, and we feel that loss, that void. Today the Church lives between life and death. And we long for, anticipate, and hope for Sunday morning. We live in anticipation and expectation of waking up Sunday morning to the creedal cry of the Church: “HE IS RISEN!” “HE IS RISEN INDEED!” I long for tomorrow when the silence of death will be broken. When I will walk into the sanctuary and see the cross draped in the victorious white of the Resurrection. We will sing ALLELUIA! Our first Alleluia since the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. We will hear the Gospel. We will renew our baptismal vows. We will take communion. We will pass the peace. We will worship our risen Lord and Savior. But today is one of silence and waiting–vigil.
I will always wonder what the women who watched Joseph place Jesus’ body in the tomb did on that first Saturday. They didn’t have our hope. They thought Jesus was dead, and the kingdom he proclaimed was destroyed with him. What did they do on that day between death and life?
Originally posted April 7, 2007.