This Lent I have been using the Magnificat app on my phone. I appreciated this reflection from Pope Benedict XVI:
Holy Saturday is the day of the ‘death of God,’ the day which expresses the unparalleled experience of our age, anticipating the fact that God is simply absent, that the grave hides him, that he no longer awakes, no longer speaks, so that one no longer needs to gainsay him but can simply overlook him…Christ strode through the gate of our final loneliness; in his Passion he went down into the abyss of our abandonment. Where no voice can reach us any longer, there is He. Hell is thereby overcome, or, to be more accurate, death, which was previously hell, is hell no longer. Neither is the same any longer because there is life in the midst of death, because love dwells in it.
In many ways we live our entire lives on Holy Saturday, ‘in the gap’ between death and new life.
Death is a reality of our human experience and yet we somehow, at least in the western world, seem in a continual state of surprise that people die. This element of shock lends itself to a disconnect and deep discomfort with the hard work and long journey of grief. Grief, as I have come to understand it, is the daily practice of learning to live without the laugh, smell, and physical presence of someone you love. Each day I stand at Mack’s bedside and hold his stuffed snowman that he slept with his last Christmas with us. The pom-pom of the snowman’s hat is still crunchy from his chewing on it and I smell it and feel it.
Grief, as I have come to understand it, is the daily practice of learning to live without the laugh, smell, and physical presence of someone you love.
But, in the midst of our loss, I have been met in the darkest places by God, and I have come to appreciate this is part of the unfolding of the mystery of death. I am still feeling my way through this new journey, but I know in my very soul that death is not the end, and that until my human experience comes to an end, I ask for courage to love and live and walk this path set before me.
Were it possible for us to see further than our knowledge reaches, and yet a little way beyond the outworks of our divining, perhaps we would endure our sadnesses with greater confidence than our joys. For they are the moments when something new has entered into us, something unknown; our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity, everything in us withdraws, a stillness comes, and the new, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it and is silent. —Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)