thinking theology

When you first begin, you find only darkness, and as it were a cloud of unknowing. You don’t know what this means except that in your will you feel a simple steadfast intention reaching out towards God. Do what you will, and this darkness and this cloud remain between you and God… Reconcile yourself to wait in this darkness as long as is necessary, but still go on longing after him whom you love. Cloud of Unknowing

What is darkness? it is not really the absence of light so much as an experience of uncertainty, of potential danger. Many people lock their doors at night, but not in the daytime. We like to see what is coming. We like to know how to manage both what we expect and how to prepare before something unimaginable comes. We are impatient about waiting in the dark, letting things come to fullness without our intervention.

On Holy Saturday, no matter which Gospel we read, we are waiting in the dark with the disciples of long ago, waiting for we know not what. The logical expectation is a burial and a service of mourning. Indeed, that is what all those close to Jesus expected it seems.

In fact, we have no idea what happened in that darkened tomb. It is shrouded in mystery, much as the way our consciousness unfolds in the womb. The only memories of the womb any of us carry are warmth, rocking, darkness. The darkness of womb and tomb is passage from one state of being to another.

I think it is unfortunate that people need the reassurance of after-death experience to shore up faith. We have lost our capacity for mystery, for not knowing, but waiting. We live in a bright world, lit night and day with artificial lights. We want answers for everything and we are impatient when information does not give us control. We want to see and what we want to see is what will fit our expectations.

That is not the experience of the Holy, though; that is human experience. To experience the Holy, we must learn to wait in the dark, to let not knowing wash over us like a mountain breeze. It is in the not knowing that the becoming happens.

Jesus is our model for this. God is silent in the garden and on the cross. God is silent as Jesus is placed in the tomb. Jesus, however, trusts in God’s will for him and for all of us too. About our own mortality, and our hope, this is what we can say. We can say with the psalmist,

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Psalm 139:14-15

And so tonight, we celebrate that God works for good and without our attention or work. Tomorrow will be the time to take up the mission of Jesus again. Tonight, with him, we rest in God’s love and let our souls reach out with that same love that is at the centre of our trues selves. We reach out, trusting that the one who made us will never forsake us. We reach out content that we are in the hands of the Holy One, tonight and forever. We reach out trusting that we will meet again in the garden of God’s love.

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