Easter Even: “he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed”

The Gospel Lesson for Holy Saturday in the BCP is Matthew 27:57-67.

Jesus is dead. Joseph of Arimathea has laid him in a sepulchre and departed. From what can be seen by human eyes, the story is over.

All that promise, snuffed out by the cruelty of a Cross.

We know the rest of the story — Sunday’s coming! And, indeed, Christ is at that moment trampling down death by death. The Harrowing of Hell is going on at this moment (pictured below not — as you might expect from me — in the Orthodox icon of the Anastasis but in a fresco of Fra Angelico).

The Prayer Book, however, does not point us to that event, it does not point us forward to Sunday, either. It points us to that tomb, not yet empty. And the Collect points us to baptism, to the sacrament of initiation where we die with Christ. Let us mortify “our corrupt affections.” As Sergei Bulgakov said, “Kill the flesh in order that you may acquire a body.”

GRANT, O Lord, that as we are baptized into the death of thy blessed Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, so by continual mortifying our corrupt affections we may be buried with him; and that, through the grave, and gate of death, we may pass to our joyful resurrection; for his merits, who died, and was buried, and rose again for us, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

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