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The King Is Sleeping


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On this day between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection the whole earth keeps silence.

George Weigel



In the centuries after Christianity emerged from the catacombs, the Church of Rome made an annual Lenten pilgrimage to a series of “station churches” at which the Bishop of Rome led his flock in prayer over the remains of one or another of the early martyrs. On the morning of Holy Saturday, however, the Church of the first millennium kept “station” not at a particular basilica made holy by the relics of martyrs and the prayers of those who have venerated them, but in her religious imagination. There was no Mass during the day, as there was no Mass on Good Friday. In the evening, as the sun set, the Roman Church would gather at the papal cathedral, the Basilica of St. John Lateran (“mother and head of all the churches in the city and the world”) to await the dawn of Resurrection. But Holy Saturday itself was a moment to enter reflectively into the divine rest.


Twenty-first century Christians can share in that experience through the readings appointed for this day in the Catholic Church’s Liturgy of the Hours.


In the first selection in the Office of Readings (Hebrews 4:1–13), the author ponders this unique day of religious silence by reference to the Sabbath that God decreed for the seventh day, so that he might rest “from all his work which he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:3). The divine promise, in creation, was that humanity might also enter that Sabbath rest. Sin changed not the promise but its realization, which required human cooperation. Our ancestors “did not benefit” from God’s word and fell away from the righteous path God had pointed out, arousing the divine wrath: “Therefore I swore in my anger that they should not enter my rest” (Psalms 95:11).


The God of creation — the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus — does not renege on his promises, however, nor is his anger the essence of his being. He is the Father, who welcomes the Prodigal Son back from his foolishness, restores to him the dignity of his squandered sonship, and invites him to re-enter his family home, where he may be at rest. And so, the author of Hebrews writes, God “again . . . sets a certain day,” a new day of Sabbath rest: That rest is the Kingdom of God come in its fullness, the Kingdom announced in the person and mission of Jesus. The key to opening the gates of that Kingdom is the Son’s obedience to the Father’s will, which makes sonship possible for all who believe in the Son.







I've just checked with The Boss, and He says its ok for us Protestant heretics to join in. biggrin.png

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