08 Holy Saturday and the Silence of God - Sarah Bachelard

posted Mar 29, 2018, 9:20 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 29, 2018, 9:20 AM ]
If the Easter story is the definitive revelation of God, then the silence of Holy Saturday must be a word that speaks of the necessary liberation and reconciliation of all things in Christ.

In 1882, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche foresaw the collapse of the philosophical and cultural background on which Christian belief seemed to depend, and so proclaimed the "death of God".

"God is dead."

"God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives; who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?"

For Nietzsche, a world without God was still a fearful and chaotic place. As time passed, it got easier, it seems, to contemplate.

In the twentieth century, in the wake of Auschwitz and Hiroshima, a whole movement in Western theology followed Nietzsche in proclaiming the "death of God". The idea of a transcendent God, so it was argued, had become literally incredible in the modern, secular world and powerless to transform. And for many in our present time, no further argument is needed; "God" is now not so much "dead" as irrelevant; not even "his shadow" looms any longer. "God" is a matter of indifference, the relic of a bygone world view.

Yet long before Nietzsche, post-modern theology and pervasive secularism, the Christian tradition itself proclaimed that God suffered death, and was buried. On Holy Saturday, we watch at His tomb. And this death—the death, not just of an idea of God, but of God-in-person—has such radical consequences that we still struggle to understand what it could mean or how to speak of it.

In all four Gospels, after Jesus has breathed His last, Joseph of Arimathea goes to Pilate to ask for the body. He has taken responsibility for the burial. And, unique among the Gospels, Mark insists on the fact that Jesus is dead. The word "dead" seems deliberately to be repeated. Pilate wonders if Jesus is already dead; he asks the centurion whether Jesus has been dead for some time; and when he learns from the centurion that he is dead, he grants the body to Joseph. Dead, dead, dead. This man, the Son of God, is dead.

Our Creed insists on it as well; Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, is dead. And His death means that God is a God who suffers at human hands, a God at the mercy of creatures, a God who dies. What kind of a God could this possibly be? Does it not stretch the very concept of God to the limit?