Saturday, April 03, 2010

Holy Saturday 2010:

The Revelation of the Cross is now replaced by the silence of the conversation on the road to Emmaus - and the breaking of the bread.

“Should we not turn to see that …Holy Saturday stands liturgically in the Church’s year, is particularly close to our day and is to a particular degree the experience of our century” On Good Friday our gaze remains fixed on the crucified Christ, but 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. `God is dead and we have killed him.’ This saying of Nietzsche’s belongs linguistically to the tradition of Christian Passiontide piety; it expresses the content of Holy Saturday, `descended into hell.’”[1]

“This article of the Creed always reminds me of two scenes in the Bible. The first is that cruel story in the Old Testament in which Elias challenges the priests of Baal to implore their God to give them fire for their sacrifice. They do so, and naturally nothing happens. He ridicules them, just as the ‘enlightened rationalist’ ridicules the pious person nand finds him laughable when nothing happens in response to his prayers…. When one reads today this mockery of the devotees of Baal, one can begin to feel uncomfortable; one can get the feeling that we have now arrived in that situation and that the mockery must now fall on us. No calling seems to be able to awaken God. The rationalist seems entitled to say to us, ‘’pray louder, perhaps your God will then wake up.’ ‘Descended into hell;’ how true this is of our time, the descent of God into muteness, into the dark silence of the absent.

“But alongside the story of Elias and its New Testament analogue, the story of the Lord sleeping in the midst of the storm on the lake (Mark 4, 35-41), we must put the Emmaus (Luke 24, 13-35). The disturbed disciples are talking of the death of their hope. To them, something like the death of God ha happened: the point at which God finally seemed to have spoken has disappeared. God’s envoy is dead, and so there is a complete void. Nothing replies any more. But while they are there speaking of the death of their hope and can no longer see God they do not notice that this very hope stand alive in their midst; that ‘God,’ or rather the image they had formed of his promise, had to die so that he could live on a bigger scale. The image which they had formed of God, and into which they sought to compress him, had to be destroyed, so that over the ruins of the demolished house, as it were, they could see the sky again and him who remains the infinitely greater.

“Thus the article about the Lords’ descent into hell reminds us that not only God’s speech but also his silence is part of the Christian revelation. God is not only the comprehensible word that comes to us; he is also the silent, inaccessible, uncomprehended and incomprehensible ground that eludes us. To be sure, in Christianity there is a primacy of the logos, of the word, over silence; God has spoken. God is word. But this does not entitle us to forget the truth of God’s abiding concealment. Only when we have experienced him as silence may we hope to hear his speech too, which proceeds in silence? Christology reaches out beyond the cross, the moment when the divine love is tangible, into the death, the silence and the eclipse of God. Can we wonder that the Church and the life of the individual are led pagan and again into this hour of silence, into the forgotten and almost discarded article, ‘Descended into hell?’”[2]

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” (1990) 224.

[2] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” (1990) 226-227.

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