Hitting the last third of life can be a shock to the system, but, if we’re open and willing to bend with the changes rather than push back against them, we’ll find we are stronger than ever, even if we can no longer do a headstand. (And yes, I do discuss yoga in this episode as well.)
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On Holy Saturday the Albany Times Union featured an interview with me on the sacred time between Lent and Easter and the joy we await in this 50-day season. Although the emptiness of our waiting time is behind us, I thought maybe you’d enjoy seeing the story and photos here:
Lent is over and Catholics on Holy Saturday await Easter
BETHLEHEM – Holy Saturday is that moment in the spiritual calendar for Roman Catholics that captures the time between despair from the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and the joyfulness of his rising from the dead on Easter Sunday, according to a Catholic author, columnist and retreat leader.
The three days on the church calendar from Holy Thursday through Holy Saturday are known as the Triduum and are the bridge between the 40 days of Lent and the start of the 50-day Easter season, said Mary DeTurris Poust of Delmar.
“There’s no regular Mass on Good Friday. There’s no regular Mass, like morning Mass, on Saturday. We’re almost in this suspended state for that period where we’re in a waiting stage,” Poust said about Easter Mass being celebrated.
“I kind of like Holy Saturday because it’s this spiritual waiting period where we’re almost seeing two sides of emptiness – the emptiness of the kind of despair that comes from Good Friday and Calvary and then the emptiness of the empty tomb which comes with all that hope that’s coming,” Poust said.
The arrival of Easter brings a chance to begin again in the year, Poust explained. People may see their New Year’s resolutions on Jan. 1 as a new beginning and treat Lent the same way. Poust presented workshops and retreats on Lent entitled, “You Can’t Fail Lent” and “Halfway There: Inspiration for the Second Half of Lent,” that address people’s worries about Lent.
“I think sometimes people see it as New Year’s resolutions 2.0 and, like what you didn’t figure out or what you didn’t do right in January, you get a do over during Lent. The point of Lent is not to do those surface things. It’s really about something much deeper,” Poust said.
“It’s really more about the relationship with God than those practical things that we do in our lives. It’s a perfect time to look at Easter as a new beginning no matter what happened during your Lent, Easter is another chance to begin again,” Poust said.
Poust is a columnist for The Evangelist, was a columnist for 22 years for Catholic New York, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of New York before it closed in November, was a spokeswoman for the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese, is a Catholic retreat leader and teaches meditation and yoga. Information Poust’s writing, retreats and programs is available at her website notstrictlyspiritual.com.
The recent declaration of bankruptcy by the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese and its dealing with the accusations of priest abuse of children, as are other dioceses, has Catholics facing a Lenten period of handling that situation, Poust said.
“We are going through a dark, difficult period as Catholics. In relation to all that’s happening with the abuse crisis, it is felt by the people in the pews. It feels like we are living through a Lent as Catholics and looking toward this hope that this is going to someday be rectified and people will be given the healing they need. And the church will be given the healing it needs and we will come out the other side like on Easter,” Poust said.
Emerging into the Easter season brings rich symbolism with rituals, incense, holy water, bells and smells that are “tactile, tangible things that put us in the mind of something transcendent,” Poust said. But until this phase of the church calendar starts Sunday, Poust said, “Holy Saturday is this really kind of beautiful day where there’s not a lot happening and we’re in this waiting stage just like the early disciples would have been in that period of not being sure of what was really happening.”
Photo by Jim Franco.
Link to story and more photos HERE.
At this point in the season, we’re past our Lenten promises — many of them unfulfilled — and wondering if we’ve allowed ourselves to be changed at all during these 40 days. Has the journey brought us closer to God? Closer to our true self? Closer to others? The good news is that the end of Lent is not the end of the journey. Just the opposite. We now stand on the threshold of resurrection, waiting in the emptiness after Calvary, the emptiness of Holy Saturday, eyes trained on the horizon for the spark of light that will come with the new fire of Easter and news of the empty tomb.
It’s strange how this time in our liturgical cycle brings us face to face with two sides of emptiness — one born of desperation after the crucifixion when all hope seemed lost and the other an emptiness brimming with possibility, an emptiness so full we can’t help but trust even when logic tells us otherwise. Imagine today you are one of the women visiting the tomb with spices to anoint Jesus’ body, or perhaps you are one of the men locked in hiding out of fear. What are you thinking? Do you dare hope? Do you trust a shimmering mirage, an angel outside the tomb telling you not to be afraid? Do you trust that Jesus was who he says he was and will do what he promised? It requires more than a leap of faith. It requires total and complete surrender to things beyond our comprehension.
About six years ago, a Trappist monk at the Abbey of the Genesee in western New York asked me, during a spiritual direction session, to consider the meaning of the infinite — a God beyond all time and space. “When you deal with God, you enter another world,” said Father John Eudes Bamberger, OCSO, who was a novice under Thomas Merton, perhaps the most famous Trappist monk, and a spiritual director to theologian and writer Henri Nouwen. Throughout our hour-long session, Father John Eudes kept coming back to death and the fact that it could show up unbidden at any moment. Our challenge, he said, is to live for the next world not for this passing version.
I remember as I made the four-hour drive home later that weekend, I was cut off by a truck pulling a boat, and in a split second I had to maneuver my car to save my life. It was that close. It was as though the Spirit wanted to hammer home Father John Eudes’ lesson: We really do not know the day or the hour, so why do we live as though our lives on earth are guaranteed?
That lesson came flooding back as I thought about the women at the tomb, confused by the absence of a body. The disciples in hiding, confused by the story the women tell. There is so much confusion today. None of it makes sense. How can this be? Because we are dealing with God, and when we deal with God, we have to check our human sensibilities at the door.
On this day of waiting, we ponder the infinite, which just yesterday seemed impossible. God makes a way where there was none before. “We live every day by acts of faith,” the old monk told me as I sat before him full of confusion and doubt about my own life, a modern version of the disbelieving disciples. “We have to trust,” he said, seeming to see right through me to the questions in my soul.
We have to trust that God can do what we cannot. Trust that no matter how we fared during our Lenten journey, we are beloved just the same. Trust that what we see in this life is its own shimmering mirage; we live for what comes next.
God is here. Now. We don’t have to look for God because God is our everywhere and our everything. The tomb is empty, and our hearts are full.
This column originally appeared in the April 6, 2023, issue of The Evangelist.
Photo by Mary DeTurris Poust at the Abbey of the Genesee, Piffard, NY.
I think we imagine that if we are truly faithful, we will never have doubts about our faith, but that’s not the case. Not only is it normal to have doubts, it can be essential to our spiritual growth. If you don’t believe me, you’ll hear quotes from Pope Francis to back me up. Doubts and questions can contribute to a deepening and ever-expanding understanding of this amazing spiritual journey. Join me for the conversation over on the latest Life Lines podcast at the link below. And don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss any episodes.
I woke up in the middle of the night with this psalm verse running through my head. This is not one of my “favorite” psalms and this sort of thing does not typically happen to me, so how and why did this particular psalm end up in my sleepy subconscious. When I got up I Goggled the verse because I honestly had no idea where it came from in Scripture, but I was intrigued that it decided to show up for me. Now I find myself pondering what I’m supposed to take from it. (And turning it into the graphic you see here.)
For me it is a reminder that I am called (and I think we are all called) to find “the house of the Lord” right where we are. It is not somewhere out in the distance of space and time. It is now, here. If we look at life through the eyes of wonder and with the heart of gratitude, we find God’s house right in front of us at all times, around us, within us. I think that verse came to me in my sleep because I need to do a better job of being present in my own life and aware of God’s abiding present there with me. What does this verse say to you?