Saturday, April 4, 2015

Holy Saturday: Death as an Object of Faith (part 1)

 

It's more difficult to believe in death than in the Resurrection. (Annibale Carraci, The Dead Christ, 1584; Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100)
It’s more difficult to believe in death than in the Resurrection. (Annibale Carraci, The Dead Christ, 1584; Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100)

What follows is a longread essay by Dariusz Karlowicz that appeared in his award-winning Polish-language collection entitled The End of Constantine’s Dream. The following translation is my own published with the author’s permission.
Death as an Object of Faith: Meditation for Holy Saturday 


Holy Saturday: The drama of Holy Week dies down for a moment. But our thoughts race ahead, because they are hesitant about stopping near scenes of mourning, at physically repelling pietas, or by the corpse of Christ that has turned blue (as Mantegna saw it during a moment of religious dread). It is difficult to stay with a dead God, if only because his very death negates the logic of all consolations, doubt strikes not only the object of hope, but also its very possibility. We run away. Even though the tortured body of Christ rests in its grave, we live in the inevitable arrival of Sunday. The encouraging signs: rolled away stone, empty grave, angels, glory! It’s as if the final battle with the gates of hell is already behind us. But why does God wait nonetheless? Why does he leave us at the grave? Why is the One who is capable of rebuilding the temple in three days incapable of rebuilding it immediately?
 

The temptation to flee the silence of Holy Saturday is not new. These same waters—overflowing with disgust for the foolishness of an actual incarnation and an actual sacrifice—water the Docetist heresy. In the apocryphal Gospel of Bartholomew (dated back to the third century) the harrowing of hell occurs already on Friday before the deposition from the cross.  However this only makes Christ’s tomb into a mere theatrical decoration, and Saturday a problem of rhetoric not philosophy. I believe that Irenaeus of Lyons, who thought the Savior was in hell from his death until his resurrection, has the backing of some weighty theological reasons. Saturday understood as the day when death’s hegemony is overcome can only be that from God’s perspective, but directly inaccessible to our knowledge. In order to accept it we must believe in the initial truth of Holy Saturday, in the limits to everything we call life. Also, this is most difficult, in the death of all human meaning and human hopes, in the death of the God whom we create in our own image and likeness. Easter is not a holiday of bunnies and Easter eggs. We will not pull ourselves up to the truth of the resurrection on our own. We have to accept the revelation of death and stand at the wall of the world’s ruin. Saturday is a time to meditate upon and prepare for death. Is this an exaggeration? Does this mean we have to believe in an abyss? Must we descend into the abyss? Die? “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me” (Jn. 12:24-26).

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/cosmostheinlost/2015/04/03/holy-saturday-death-as-an-object-of-faith/#ixzz3WLuYaO8B

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