This is the emptiest day of the year.
Jesus is dead.
He is not in the Tabernacle. Not anywhere in the world.
It is the strangest thing to live in a monastery and go to the Choir (nuns’ chapel) only to find it an empty room. We do not genuflect as always but slightly bow to the altar where the Lord has been sacrificed. As we kneel for common prayer and raise our heads to look at Jesus in the Tabernacle we think, “Oh. I forgot. He is not there,” and so we might as well not look up.
The unlit sanctuary candle …
This is the view from the public chapel side, looking through the empty Tabernacle into the Nuns’ Choir. There you see the statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel which stands against the back wall. Symbolic, isn’t it? Mary is there, waiting for Jesus, too.
Believe it or not, there is a lot to do in a monastery to prepare for Easter (minus dying eggs and hiding candy eggs for an Easter egg hunt … although we have done that on occasion!). And it is a temptation to start running around with only the goal of “doing” and “getting it done” in mind. But there is a special mystery on this day of Holy Saturday that only comes once a year. It is important to allow the death of Jesus to sink in, and to mourn for Him at the tomb with the holy women. To let ourselves feel the absence of Christ and the sense that something is missing. Can we imagine life without the Eucharist? Or even if somehow God did not raise Jesus from the dead?
Putting ourselves in the the time of His death, like one of the bystanders, could be a very meaningful meditation. It would surely allow us to more fully experience the joy of the Resurrection on the following day!
Until then, let us keep watch as best we can at the tomb of our Savior.