Yesterday I happened upon a PBS interview with the poet Christian Wiman author of the acclaimed memoir My Bright Abyss. Wiman suffers from an incurable cancer, but it is that very cancer that has brought him back to organized Christianity (as if there can be anything like a disorganized Christianity!).
At some point in the interview he says, “Death is here to teach us something.” This struck me as a thought appropriate for Holy Saturday.
Similar sentiments about suffering are captured well in a poem he reads in that interview, “A Prayer That Will be Answered” by the Polish writer Anna Kamienska:
Lord let me suffer much
and then die
Let me walk through silence
and leave nothing behind not even fear
Make the world continue
let the ocean kiss the sand just as before
Let the grass stay green
so that the frogs can hide in it
so that someone can bury his face in it
and sob out his love
Make the day rise brightly
as if there were no more pain
And let my poem stand clear as a windowpane
bumped by a bumblebee’s head
In her The Passion from Within Adrienne von Speyr adds the following remarkable theological insight to our florilegium:
The Church receives the body of Christ before he suffers the Passion; only afterward will he go and deliver his body up to death. The Church therefore can suffer together with him only because she has already received his body, so that it lives already in her. Had she not received his body beforehand, she would not be able to suffer with him. And if the Lord had suffered first and then instituted the Eucharist, she would not be able to share in his Passion; she would be at once the triumphant Church with the Lord’s death behind her. The Eucharist would only be the risen body Christ. But the Church is made up of sinners, so this is impossible.
The temptation to run away from the silence of Holy Saturday is not new. These same waters—disgust with the foolishness of an actual incarnation and an actual sacrifice—water the Docetist heresy.
You might also want to take a look at John Paul II’s heroic witness to suffering through the eyes of atheist Julia Kristeva.