01 April 2021

Faith Matters - A Great Silence

Article by Mr Brendan Nicholls

Faith Matters - A Great Silence

During Holy Week we journey with Jesus through the tumultuous events that lead us to his Resurrection. Each year we encounter the Easter narrative as part of the liturgical cycle and in doing so the story is remembered and Jesus’ victory over death and evil reminds us that through him we can be transformed and share in new life.

This year’s whole school Easter liturgy was presented in a pre-recorded manner due to the difficulties of gathering in large numbers at present and the small window of time our daily timetable affords. Although there is a challenge in presenting a liturgy in such a way the student leaders, Jarryd Atkinson and the students who are studying Year 9 Journey did an exceptional job in creating a liturgy that was as engaging and personal as any we have held in the past.

The key to this achievement was considering Easter from a question rather than as a reflection. The question our liturgy presented was, “What does it look like today?”. Our faith and relationship with Jesus must be real if it is to endure. Likewise, the story Easter needs to be considered from a lived or present viewpoint. When Jesus was nailed to the cross we see God the Son being tortured and killed because of the jealousy of others. This event happened but if our contemplation ends there we miss the point. Innocent people are ‘crucified’ every day. When we approach Holy Week as a lived experience that relates to the world we live in, we are inspired to bring the Gospel to life.

Further, the scriptural account of Holy Week does not offer us all of the details required to truly understand what occurred. These points should raise our curiosity. One thing worth contemplating during the next few days is why so little is noted about Easter Saturday. Luke’s gospel notes that it was the Sabbath and the disciples and Apostles rested. Matthew’s gospel notes the request the Jewish leaders had for a guard to be posted at the tomb, which Pilate granted. As Jesus lay dead in the tomb what happened?

The Apostle’s Creed hints at our tradition and affirms the promises Jesus made while on earth – he descended into hell. On Easter Saturday Jesus entered the ‘space’ between God and those who through their choice were eternally separated from God the Father. Jesus restored the relationship and on Sunday offered the same salvation to all humankind.

Although this account is a Tradition more than scriptural, the theology is sound. As we do not know exactly what happened on the Saturday and as scripture offers so little I offer the following extract from an “ancient homily” from the Early Church, of an unknown author, to reflect upon during the day of rest.

An ancient homily:

"What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: 'My Lord be with you all.' And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion you to my own image.

'See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of the sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

`I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go forth. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life.

"The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages."

I hope that you find this reflection beautiful, inspiring and comforting during the difficult days ahead.

Yours in Christ,

Brendan Nicholls  Liturgy Coordinator