Harrow Us, Lord: A Holy Saturday Prayer

Harrow Us, Lord: A Holy Saturday Prayer April 19, 2014


It was never my intention to give up blogging for Lent. But Lent, like life, like any pilgrimage, is never driven by intention; it is a surrender to the road and the will of the One who calls us to walk it.

On this Holy Saturday morning, deep in the seeming silence of the garden of the tomb, think about it. How was your Lent? Where did it take you? What intentions and expectations were abandoned, jettisoned beside the road as unexpected turns and steep ascents called out of you more than you bargained for? Where were the stumbles and the weeping—for yourself and for the terrible sorrows of the world, on display, it feels to me anyway, more wrenchingly than ever this year? Where were the joys, unpredicted and doubly precious?

Something happened, this Lent, and it shut me up. I am pondering and praying, this morning, about how to go forward, whether to go forward, in the blog journey, or to yield this space to the ever-growing cloud of witnesses at Patheos Catholic who have so much to add to the light and who do it so regularly and eloquently.

The something that happened this Lent did not just happen to me. The Anchoress Elizabeth Scalia says it here, almost what I would have written could I have written.

Today I have realized that I can no longer write about politics or political issues because they are superficial, transient and only partially attached to what is real; they are sinkholes of illusion meant to turn us away from the outreach of love that is the taproot of all that is reality — all that is genuine — and that is begging to be accepted. I wrote about politics yesterday and did it poorly because I hated it, and how it made me feel.

I don’t want to write about these theatrics anymore, and become complicit in the distraction; I don’t want to assist in leading people away from that pulsing affirmation I felt, “Oh, my people…”

I don’t want to abandon that bereft-seeming outreach of desolated love that I sensed in Penn Station — so much like a modern, subterranean Agony of Gethsemane. I can’t let it go and walk away from it, even though I know I am free to.

I say “almost what I would have written” because what happened to me was less about desolation than about a peace that passeth understanding, and what a grave sin it is, in me, to engage in anything that drags people away from the truth of that peace—not always a happy truth, but never without joy. And my fervent prayer is to know how best to serve that truth, going forward.

Under the seeming silence of the tomb, this morning, we recall the powerful energy by which that peace was made, the notice served that we need not be distracted by wars and rumors of wars, by apocalyptic night terrors, because the world as we thought we knew it has already ended, in Christ. Conquering death by death, he descended into hell to harrow it—to break up the old, hardened earth of the original lie, to reap the harvest of the dead. Even, we believe, the dead who brought death into the world by believing the lie.

This morning’s meditation, for me and for you too as we contemplate what hardness has been broken up in us this Lent, what harvest Christ is reaping from our lives, comes from the book that has been my best companion since Ash Wednesday, George Weigel’s Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches. (One of my failed intentions was to have shared with you the riches of this volume and its powerfully inspiring and transforming reflections on the readings of Lent and Holy Week. Too little, too late, but take it from me that Roman Pilgrimage can be a marvelous companion any day of the year.) Summarizing the message of the anonymous Greek Holy Saturday homily from today’s Office of Readings, Weigel describes the something that happened to me, to Elizabeth, maybe to you in the simplest of words:

What happened yesterday touches and transforms all of history, including the past. There is nothing in the human condition that Jesus did not share, and there is nothing in the human condition that Jesus did not redeem.

An understanding that shuts me up, a prayer to be opened in such a way that only that truth is spoken.

This Holy Saturday, be still with me. Be harrowed.

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