This is the final post of our Lenten series, journeying the Stations of the Cross. In this meditation on the Fourteenth Station of the Cross, Jesus is Laid in the Tomb, Contributor Bridget shares about her struggle with silence as we reflect on the empty tomb of Our Savior. Knowing how necessary and important silence is, learn how Bridget’s desire to grow is helping her cultivate that practice, little by little, and how it can help you too.
I hate silence. I started hating it in college, I think, when my mind started picking up and running thoughts on a constant basis. I slept with a fan, always had music or another implement on, such as the tv for background noise, and dreaded spending the night at a place that did not have some sort of white noise available. I am so picky that if it is a fan that rattles or clicks, it will not work.
When the sounds are off, when I enter a silent church or room, or if I am trying to rest with no noise present, the noise between my ears becomes a torrent. I was a champion ruminator. I would replay and replay and replay conversations that did not go well, conflicts and misunderstandings, letters or emails I wrote, situations where I made a choice I regretted, and years-old wrongs. Day and night, I dwelled on negative attributes of myself, wishing I had said something different in a conflict or argument and continuing to hit the “rewind” button as if I could re-do the episode.
I remember signing up for an hour of adoration each week in our church chapel. I took one of the middle-of-the-night shifts, 4 am – 5 am. It was agonizing. I do appreciate that many people find refuge, consolation, deep prayer, and healing in the silence before the Eucharist. I am not one of those people. My mind starts racing, and I hear a rushing in my ears as my thoughts come to the forefront and dominate the minutes as they amble by. I cannot focus or find peace in that space.
I love Holy Thursday Mass. The celebration of the institution of the Eucharist, the washing of the feet, the service and remembrance of that first Liturgy are glorious. There is a warmth and a joy to the first of the Triduum services. But I dread the end, when the altar is stripped, the congregation departs in silence, and we reverence the Sacrament in quiet. The night between Thursday and the afternoon service on Good Friday crawls by. We fast, keep noise down, and do not play music or distract ourselves.
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After the Good Friday service, which is so somber and meditative, we remain quiet and that time “in the tomb,” between Good Friday evening and the Easter Vigil. It is a strange waiting. My dad was the director of music at our church, so I got a preview of the Easter Vigil Mass throughout Lent, a bit of consolation as the Psalm responses and the Gloria were rehearsed in our basement with the full music group in attendance. Our church instituted the reading of all seven Old Testament passages before the lights were brought up, the bells started ringing throughout the whole church, and the Gloria was begun. That entire time, we were waiting. Waiting for the light to return, waiting for when the words of the Exultet were proclaimed by the deacon, waiting for permission to rejoice.
Many of us feel like we are in that place of vigil right now. For some, it has been weeks to months of turmoil, spiritual battle, despair, and desperation. A friend shared with me last week what I summarized above: we wait in silence, in uncertainty, in pain, in sorrow. We are each experiencing our own Passion, or have in years past. We are fallen, we are sinners, and others sin against us as well. The wounding, trauma, crises, life-altering events, and the constancy of change are massive burdens to carry. We sit with those through our own series of sufferings, facing the death and absence of our Savior for a time. That time can be brief, or for some of us, it may feel endless.
Jesus waited. He waited 30 years to begin His public ministry while embracing our humanity and experiencing growing pains, the loss of His earthly father, waiting and preparing for the brief public life He led before being betrayed and crucified. He waited. He suffered. He died. He was placed in the tomb, and He did not resist. He was buried with spices and ritual and placed in the darkness. The stone was placed in front of the tomb, and He waited, in silence. He was obedient unto death.
The waiting, the “Passover of the Lord,” from the opening prayer of the Easter Vigil, is preparation. It is self-examination, pruning, shedding of the old darkness as we are released into the Light. The priest prays, in these or similar words,
“Dear brothers and sisters, on this most sacred night, in which our Lord Jesus Christ passed over from death to life, the Church calls upon her sons and daughters, scattered throughout the world, to come together to watch and pray. If we keep the memorial of the Lord’s paschal solemnity in this way, listening to His word and celebrating His mysteries, then we shall have the sure hope of sharing His triumph over death and living with Him in God.”
We may miss this prayer often because it is said outside of the church, and the mic may or may not work, but it still comforts us because it calls us forward, to watch, listen, and celebrate. We approach the church in silence and wait for the start of the celebration. We have most likely been preparing food throughout the day, making sure we have a new outfit to wear for the mass, dyeing Easter eggs, and, of course, making sure there is sufficient candy to satiate the young ones around us. There is shuffling, cleaning, ironing, busyness, and the usual events of a Saturday.
I work this Holy Thursday and Good Friday. This will be my sacrifice, to miss those services as I attend a different type of mass and wash the feet of the sick. I pledge to take at least 15-30 minutes on Friday and Saturday to sit in silence, to embrace what I fear so much, and trust that it will be honored. There is meaning in the silence, in the quiet, in the waiting. Mary waited in grief. The apostles waited in terror. The women and followers of Jesus sat in total uncertainty, wondering if they would be next to be convicted and devastated that their friend and teacher was gone.
Waiting is necessary. Waiting is important. Waiting produces good fruit and brings answers. Silence is not empty, but full of promise and potential. Silence provides space for thought, writing, meditation, grace, and contemplation. I want to do better at leaning into this more, and spending time being quiet.
Perhaps this can be a small gift to each of us this Holy Week as we walk through the Passion in whatever way we are participating. Seek out the space to sit with the enormity of the love and mercy that have brought us to the present day. Lay down the weapons you are carrying into this war with yourself and the wounds you bring. Find tranquility and consolation. Find life and light. Prepare to be forgiven.