‘Something strange is happening today’. A second century Christian writer in a beautiful teaching once tried to express the experience of absent presence that fills the emptiness after the burial of Jesus.
Everyone who has buried a loved one has felt this strangeness that follows the rituals and the companionship of family and friends. In the jokes and stories at the gathering after the service, there is permission, within the social conventions, to step aside briefly from the sense of loss and emptiness.
But soon after, when the plates and glasses have been cleared away and the family have returned with some relief to their own lives, the strangeness of being a survivor descends. Life carries on but at its centre there is a felt absence that at moments calls the meaning of everything into question.
The ancient author peered deep into this absence and with the eyes of faith saw a purpose in the collective experience of nothing. “Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve.” Something is at work in the netherworld of grief. A process is being enacted that touches into the pre-consciousnes of the human race. Something is being touched and freed in a place that seemed too deep and dark ever to be understood and so remained a primal source of fear.
“Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form one undivided person and we cannot be separated.” Out of the ultimate separation there is now the daring prospect of eternal union.
Meditation is often a Holy Saturday. The feeling of failure or loss or disconnection has to be endured. But, at a deeper level, there is a certainty that has not yet broken the surface of consciousness that is hope.