Holy Saturday in a Pandemic


Today my reflections turn to the space between Good Friday and Easter: Holy Saturday.

The horrors of that first Good Friday reverberate into the present moment with a disorienting intensity and realness. While COVID-19 preys upon prince and pauper alike, I cannot overlook the fact that those who are most vulnerable—people of color, the poor, those who are immune-compromised, the houseless—are the least likely to be able to protect themselves from it or access healthcare to intervene its death-dealing effects. These folks represent a horrifying majority of an already devastating number of deaths. Good Friday continues to be experienced millennia later in insidious new ways.

And then my newsfeed delivered an image I cannot shake:

mass graves hart island

New York’s Hart Island where workers from city jails bury bodies that were unclaimed or their families could not afford to bury them. Photo: RUETERS/Lucas Jackson

…mass graves for those who transition from this life—undoubtedly a large percentage of them victims of the current pandemic—bodies stacked beside and upon one another as if they were fallen in war. Nothing to mark them but fresh dirt and anonymity. Like Jesus who was placed in a borrowed cave at the end of the day he was killed, these people were someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s lover, someone’s friend. And here they lie in the silence of a borrowed mass grave, buried for pennies on the dollar by prisoners. Despite how I tried to distract myself, this image burrowed its way into my consciousness as Good Friday passed into the silence of night.

And so it is I find myself on Holy Saturday, caught between sorrow and hope.

Mourning the one who could have been saved if they could have accessed healthcare or shelter.
Mourning the runaway, the addict, the impoverished, the hopeless.
Mourning the one laid to rest so crudely with no one to mourn them, unnoticed, unmissed.
Mourning the ones with no one to hold their hand as they moved on.

On this day many remember Jesus lying in that borrowed grave, a day described as “so quiet you could almost hear the earth breathing,” I sit in the silence of this grief; hope is elusive.

I wonder if this virus will find its way to my beloveds.

I wonder when this pandemic will end—not just COVID-19 but the pandemics of racism and capitalism as well.

I wonder if we will, as poet Kitty O’Meara hopes, find healing and new life through repentance and efforts toward reconciliation.

And I wonder what hope the discovery of an empty, borrowed grave could possibly mean to those whose loved ones are buried in those mass graves on Hart Island. To those who died alone. To those who will die today.

I know resurrection is nigh.

But today, today I sit in the quietness of my wonderings and I mourn.


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