They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to the hands of sinners and be crucified and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. - Luke 24:2-9
The Holy Triduum begins on Maundy Thursday evening and concludes on Easter morning. During these last intense days of lent the Christian soul is called to a pervasive introspection as relates to the death, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus. On Maundy Thursday altars, churches, naves are denuded and stripped of any human adornments. In Liturgical settings the tabernacle which ordinarily hosts the reserved sacraments of the body and blood of Christ are removed. On Good Friday the tabernacle door is left standing open and empty. It is a horrible, helpless, vacuous feeling, terrible, terrible……gone, just gone…….
My first experience with this empty tabernacle was shattering, devastating, overwhelming. For the first time in my spiritual journey, I was absent of the presence of Jesus. As I have matured in my faith this absence of the “presence of Jesus” becomes increasingly more painful. All is simply devoid of any comforts, joys of his ‘being there’. For three days I must go it alone. I must face my own ‘black empty soul’. The tide turns from me and grace filled living to the agony and sorrow of our Lord. My pain is inconsequential to his pain in these three intensely difficult days. There is nothing holy about these days excepting a complete and thorough emptying of self!
The hymnist says it all in “Ah, Holy Jesus” twas I that denied thee, twas I that crucified thee . Even on the best of days I simply cannot sing or utter these words on my lips or from my heart. This is the truth.
Yet, as my Scottish 16th century spiritual hero Thomas Chalmers reminds us, the human soul only needs three things to be happy and survive:
Something to DO
Somebody to LOVE
Something to HOPE FOR
It is the hope of the resurrection that fills our black empty souls. We now can again live because he too lives. If we cease to believe in the resurrection, we have nothing and the empty ambry becomes a way of life. Once again Jesus is present to our very being. Thanks be to God that we are people filled with something to HOPE for! Amen!