Arts & Faith: Easter Vigil—Holy Saturday Imaginative Prayer Exercise

The Three Marys at the Sepulchre detail from the San Pier Maggiore Altarpiece by Jacopo di CioneAs we move from Lent to Easter, we’ll provide Ignatian prayers for the Triduum, inspired by videos from Arts & Faith: Lent. The video and prayer for Holy Saturday are based on Mark 16:1–7. The art is Jacopo di Cione’s “The Three Marys at the Sepulchre.”

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.”

—Mark 16:5–6

Preparation

We begin, with silence, by beholding the empty place where he had been.

First let your body be silent. In the silence sit upright, legs crossed or not, feet on the floor or not, lower back pressed against the chair. Or not. Let it be silent. Breathe.

Now let the mind be silent. In the silence let these words spill through your mind and down your spine into the earth. Let your thoughts puff away with each breath. As new ones come—knotted as they are with joy or pain—hold them like wounded birds. Set them aside to heal. Let it be silent. Breathe.

And let the heart be silent too. Vulnerability means able to be wounded. Of course there is resistance. Notice it. In the silence pull back the vines and push open the gates. Breathe.

In silence, tilt your chin to the heavens and look back at the One who gazes at you with great affection.

Let it be silent. Breathe.

Silence Today

An ancient homily for Holy Saturday speaks of silence today: “What is happening?” the unknown homilist asks. And the answer is: “Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps…because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages.”

  • Let your eyes roam slowly over the painting. See the gold leaf, the red flowers in the grass, and the darkness at the edge of the wings. See the empty space where the Lord has been.
  • Notice your heart. What is missing? What does your heart tell you is missing? How do you feel about it being gone?
  • What gifts have you brought to anoint the Lord? How do you feel seeing that he is gone?
  • See how the tomb fades from white to red to black. In the quiet whine that accompanies all silence, look into the dark space.
  • Is this a dark silence of waiting or of dread? Is there fear or hope or some mixture of emotions?

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once noted that: “By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak…[a] space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible. It is often in silence, for example, that we observe the most authentic communication taking place between people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other.”

  • What does the angel’s gesture communicate to you? How do you respond to the news that Jesus is not there?
  • Do you hold your hand over your heart? Run your hands over the edge of the tomb? How does it feel under your fingers?
  • What is it like to touch the space where his body lay? How do you feel?
  • What is the Great God of Life communicating to those he loves in the language of the empty tomb?

Let the Lord be the one to break the silence. Let him, in your heart or your memory or your imagination, be the first to speak. Then, after you have listened, speak with him. Speak with him as one friend speaks to another.

Concluding Prayer

For you, O Lord,

My soul in stillness waits.

Truly, my hope is in you.

Glory be to the Father,

and to the Son,

and to the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning,

is now, and ever shall be,

world without end.

Amen.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Paddy and Daniella,
    I treasured your reflection on silence and interpretation of the painting of the arrival of Mary, Mary and Salomnae at the “empty” tomb. Thank you.
    Three women – the first to fully realize that Jesus had been transformed.
    Three women overcoming their grief, revulsion, and fear in order to reach out to anoint the dead body of Jesus.
    The awe-struck silence upon seeing the empty tomb.
    The realization of the true meaning of Jesus message of transformation as symbolized by the Angels.
    And as had been stated in earlier gospel stories –
    “All these things Mary kept silently in her heart.”
    Such role models for me and all of us on this silent and Holy Saturday.

  2. The only thing that I can compare from my life to the despair and hopelessness of the disciples on the first “Holy Saturday” in my life was going to bed in June of 1968 thinking that “Camelot” had been restored and waking in the morning and learning that this great hope had been totally and completed crushed to the earth. It was not that I was such a great fan of JFK–I wasn’t–but the grossness that came afterward was such a contrast. [At the distance of over half a century I can see that Johnson’s goals were greatly preferable to Kennedy’s but the “fairy dust” of that age obscured this fact.] But with Bobby gone, hope also seemed to be gone. The situation was so much more bleak to the first followers of Christ. All praise be to the Holy Name. Pax vobiscum.

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