Mark finishes the Passion story, Mark 15:47, “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus saw where he was laid.” The tomb is sealed with the rock and the two women stand outside in silence. In the presence of death, we stand in silence. Yes, we cry. Yes, we are angry for death is never a welcome visitor. Yes, we wonder…if only. Perhaps we plot vengeance. But all of that amounts to silence between the deceased and us.
In times so deep that words fail us, ritual steps in. We have certain rituals that put words when we have trouble verbalizing. For some the 23rd Psalm gives us voice, “Yea though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death…” Others prefer the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven…” I have worked on Memory Units where people who have not talked for years, can sing hymns and quote Psalm 121. Mary and Mary know the ritual at death, prepare the body. And so they go to gather the spices that need to be applied. They will return Sunday morning.
Rituals are powerful traditions that help us navigate emotional transitions like birth, death, marriage, confirmation, and baptism. Often we have our own personal rituals, routines, that help organize our days. I have “my chair” that the family knows. That is where I sit to unwind with a cup of coffee after work or where I sit to start my day. Perhaps you have certain clothes you wear for certain occasions. Many families have strong traditions around what is eaten at Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. Covid has upset our social traditions this last year and it has been hard on all of us. Parents aren’t working. Students are studying at home and doing school by zoom. We distance. We mask. What will the new normal look like? Mary and Mary go to prepare spices to anoint the body. This ritual will help them cope with the silence of Holy Saturday. What rituals do you have that help you keep on keepin on. Prayer? Journaling? Reading? Crying? Talking to a special friend? In times of crisis, rituals help us cope when our insides are silent..
Secondly, the silence often signals that we just cannot imagine the future or the next step without the presence of the person buried. Suddenly we cannot imagine how to face tomorrow without the comforts of yesterday. But amazingly it is at those times when we cannot conceive of what to do next, that God meets us with his new plan. Today we sit in silence pondering the death of Jesus but God is not dead and will have a surprise tomorrow. A song that has become popular this year is “Easter Hallelujah.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-j3NZEdHQaI.