Archive for the ‘Lent’ Category

Ash Wednesday: A Blessing in the Ashes

February 8, 2016

Ash Wedesday CrossImage: Ash Wednesday Cross © Jan Richardson

Readings for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17;
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Let me hear joy and gladness.
—Psalm 51.8

We buried my husband’s ashes last April, two weeks after Easter. Gary’s ashes rest now in a stand of palmetto trees on the farm that’s been in my family for generations; the farm where, just a few short years earlier, Gary and I were married on a gorgeous spring day. As our beautiful family gathered by the palmettos last April, in sight of the barn where we had been married so recently, I was astonished by the brevity of the span between those two days.

On that day last April, I told our family about how, as Gary and I had planned our wedding, we knew we wanted it to be a day of blessing. So blessings wove throughout that day of celebration, offered by family and friends during the ceremony and reception. I also told our family that as the day of burying Gary’s ashes drew near, I had longed for it to be a day of blessing as well. And so, in the midst of our sorrow and grief, we offered blessings in celebration of the astonishing life that had come among us, and that lingers with us still.

In that spirit, as this Ash Wednesday approaches, I want to share a blessing with you. It’s one that I’ve shared here before. I am sharing it again because this blessing—which I wrote before Gary’s death—is one that I need to claim for myself, now more than ever. I need to claim the blessing that lives among the ashes. I want to be marked by that blessing, and by the Holy One who knows what to do with dust.

As Ash Wednesday and Lent draw near once again, what blessing do you need to claim from the ashes?

Blessing the Dust
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

BelovedWith Gary’s wondrous son on the day we buried Gary’s ashes.


Previous posts:
I have a number of reflections and blessings for Ash Wednesday; to visit these, begin with this post at Ash Wednesday: The Terrible, Marvelous Dust.

For a broken heart: If Valentine’s Day is a difficult day for you or someone you know, I invite you to visit A Blessing for the Brokenhearted.

New from Jan Richardson
CIRCLE OF GRACE: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

Circle of GraceWithin the struggle, joy, pain, and delight that attend our life, there is an invisible circle of grace that enfolds and encompasses us in every moment. Blessings help us to perceive this circle of grace, to find our place of belonging within it, and to receive the strength the circle holds for us. from the Introduction

Beginning in Advent and moving through the sacred seasons of the Christian year, Circle of Grace offers Jan’s distinctive and poetic blessings that illuminate the treasures each season offers to us. A beautiful gift in every season. Available in print and ebook.

Order the book

 

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Ash Wednesday Cross,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible.

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Ash Wednesday: The Terrible, Marvelous Dust

February 13, 2015

Ash Wedesday CrossImage: Ash Wednesday Cross © Jan Richardson

Readings for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17;
2 Corinthians 5:20b – 6:10
; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Let me hear joy and gladness.
–Psalm 51.8

It is a strange anointing, this cross that comes to mark us as Lent begins. Ashes, dust, dirt: the stuff we walk upon, that we sweep away, that we work to get rid of, now comes to remind us who we are, where we are from, where we are bound.

How terrible. And how marvelous, that God should feel so tender toward the dust as to create us from it, and return us to it, breathing through us all the while. Even after releasing us from the blessed dust at the last, God continues to breathe us toward whatever it is we are becoming.

Ash Wednesday hits close to home once again. My husband’s ashes remain in the keeping of my brother, waiting in a beautiful wooden box that Scott has built for them. This spring we will bury the ashes on the family farm where Gary and I were married not so long ago. And we will breathe, and we will bless the earth from which we have come, and we will give thanks for the astonishing gift that passed too briefly among us but whose love, tenacious as ever, goes with us still.

This is a blessing I wrote for Ash Wednesday a couple of years ago and want to share with you as the day approaches again. I would also love to share the coming season with you on the new online retreat I’m offering for Lent. If you haven’t already signed up for the Beloved Lenten Retreat, you’ll find info about it below.

Blessing the Dust
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

–Jan Richardson

Previous posts: I have a number of reflections and blessings for Ash Wednesday; to visit these, begin with last year’s post at Ash Wednesday: The Hands that Hold the Ashes.

For a broken heart: If Valentine’s Day is a difficult day for you or someone you know, I invite you to visit A Blessing for the Brokenhearted.

An invitation into Lent…

During Lent, my creative energies will be going toward a new online retreat that I’ll be offering for the season. I would love to share this journey with you! Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, the retreat is designed as a space of elegant simplicity that you can enter from wherever you are, in the way that works best for you. You don’t need to show up at a particular place or time in order to join in the retreat.

I sometimes hear from folks who say, “I’d love to do this, but I don’t have time for a retreat!” I completely get that! So I have especially designed this retreat so that you can engage as much or as little as you wish. Rather than being one more thing to add to your Lenten schedule, this retreat weaves easily and simply through your days.

For more info and to register, please visit our overview page at Online Lenten Retreat. In addition to the individual rate, we have group rates available for those who want to share the retreat together near or far. You can even give the Lenten retreat as a gift! If you have questions about the retreat, or concerns about things that you think might hinder you from sharing in the journey, be sure to check out our FAQ page (you’ll find a link on the overview page). The Beloved Retreat is new for 2015.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Ash Wednesday Cross,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Epiphany 4: Blessing for a Whole Heart

January 25, 2015

In Every Chamber of the Heart
Image: In Every Chamber of the Heart © Jan Richardson

Readings for Epiphany 4, Year B:
Deuteronomy 18.15-20Psalm 111, 1 Corinthians 8.1-13, Mark 1.21-28

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.
–Psalm 111.1

For the past year and a half I have been carrying a small piece of art in my purse. The size of a playing card, it’s a collage created by my friend Priscilla. Within the collage is a single word, printed in her handwriting:

Wholehearted

When Priscilla gave me the collage six months before Gary’s death, she could hardly have imagined how much I would need it, and how soon. I continue to carry it as a reminder and a prayer—not simply that my heart will be mended, but that even in the shattering, I will know there is a hidden wholeness that has already taken hold. This wholeness is a mystery I catch only in glimpses. But when I look at Priscilla’s word, I see not only a plea but also a blessing, a declaration of something that, in God’s strange timing, has already come about, and that I hope to live into.

This week, the lectionary gives us these same kinds of glimpses. Each reading offers a window onto what it means to have a whole heart, to live in a way that recognizes that, broken though we may be, God sees us complete and is about the work of helping us live into that completeness, not just for ourselves but for and with one another. Deuteronomy’s injunction against any prophet whose heart turns toward false gods, the psalmist’s wholehearted cry of thanksgiving to the God who sends redemption, Paul’s words that call the church at Corinth to be mindful of how their individual choices have consequences for the health of the whole community, and Jesus’ healing of a man with an unclean spirit: each of these passages shows us something of the wholeness in which God created us, and is working out within us.

This week, how might it be to open your heart—no matter how broken—to the One who sees you whole?

Blessing for a Whole Heart

You think
if you could just
imagine it,
that would be a beginning;
that if you could envision
what it would look like,
that would be a step
toward a heart
made whole.

This blessing
is for when
you cannot imagine.
This is for when
it is difficult to dream
of what could lie beyond
the fracture, the rupture,
the cleaving through which
has come a life
you do not recognize
as your own.

When all that inhabits you
feels foreign,
your heart made strange
and beating a broken
and unfamiliar cadence,
let there come
a word of solace,
a voice that speaks
into the shattering,

reminding you
that who you are
is here,
every shard
somehow holding
the whole of you
that you cannot see
but is taking shape
even now,
piece joining to piece
in an ancient,
remembered rhythm

that bears you
not toward restoration,
not toward return—
as if you could somehow
become unchanged—
but steadily deeper
into the heart of the one
who has already dreamed you
complete.

– Jan Richardson

For previous reflections on this week’s gospel reading, visit these posts:

Epiphany 4: Blessing in the Chaos
Epiphany 4: In the Realm of the Spirits

Registration now open!

Beloved Lenten Retreat

Beloved Retreat: Are you hungry for an experience that draws you into Lent without feeling like it’s just one more thing to add to your schedule? Join us for this online retreat that easily fits into the rhythm (or chaos!) of your days, offering you an elegantly simple space to reflect on your journey and receive sustenance for your path. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, this retreat is a great way to travel toward Easter, from anywhere you are. Click Online Lenten Retreat for details and registration. Individual, group, & congregational rates available.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “In Every Chamber of the Heart,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Beloved: An Online Retreat for Lent 2015

January 23, 2015

Beloved Lenten Retreat
I am still savoring the amazing experience of traveling with everyone who participated in the Illuminated online retreat during Advent. Inspired by that journey, I am back in the studio, preparing an all-new retreat for Lent. I would love for you to join us! Here’s a glimpse of what this online retreat holds in store:
 


BELOVED
An Online Journey into Lent & Easter
February 18 – April 6
New for 2015!

This online retreat is not about adding one more thing to your schedule! It is about helping you find spaces for reflection that draw you deep into the mysteries and gifts of this season. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, this retreat offers a space of elegant simplicity as you journey through Lent.

You can join in this all-new retreat from anywhere you are; you do not have to show up at a particular place or time. You’re welcome to engage the retreat as much or as little as you wish, in the way that fits you best. If you’re hungry for a simple way to move deeply into this season, this retreat is for you.

Individual, group, and congregational rates are available. You can also give the retreat as a gift! For retreat details, FAQs, and registration, visit Online Lenten Retreat.


 
The season of Lent invites us to know, most of all, how completely God loves us, and to let go of everything that would keep us from receiving and responding to that love. This invitation is at the heart of the Beloved Lenten Retreat. If that sounds good to you, please join us!

Blessings to you as Lent draws near.

Ash Wednesday: The Hands that Hold the Ashes

February 27, 2014


Image: Blessing the Dust © Jan Richardson

Readings for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17;
2 Corinthians 5:20b – 6:10
; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

(For the Ash Wednesday 2015 post, click Ash Wednesday: The Terrible, Marvelous Dust.)

My husband’s ashes are in the keeping of my brother. Scott is holding onto them until the day I can bear to gather them up and release them. On that day, we will bury Gary’s ashes on the farm that has been in the Richardson family for more than a century; the farm where, on a bright spring day so recently, Gary and I were married.

You can imagine that Ash Wednesday will feel different for me this year and always. The sheer fact of Gary’s ashes poses questions that stagger me and make me ache: questions that I am working my way through ever so slowly, questions for which I do not anticipate ever having answers.

In the midst of my struggle and sorrow, what I keep seeing are the hands that hold the ashes—my brother’s hands, and the hands of those who, in gatherings around the world next Wednesday, will trace the sign of the cross on each brow: sign of repentance and release, sign of stubborn hope. If I never make sense of the ashes and their awful and aching mystery, I can hold on, at least, to the hands that bear them, and that bear me up in these days.

How about you?

Blessings, blessings to you as Lent draws near.

Will You Meet Us
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

Will you meet us
in the ashes
will you meet us
in the ache
and show your face
within our sorrow
and offer us
your word of grace:

That you are life
within the dying
that you abide
within the dust
that you are what
survives the burning
that you arise
to make us new.

And in our aching
you are breathing
and in our weeping
you are here
within the hands
that bear your blessing
enfolding us
within your love.

–Jan Richardson


An invitation into Lent…

During Lent, most of my creative energies will be going toward the new online retreat that I’ll be offering for the season. I would love to have your company on this journey and to stay connected with you as Lent unfolds. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, the retreat is designed as a space of elegant simplicity that you can enter from wherever you are, at any time that works for you.

I sometimes hear from folks who say, “I’d love to do this but I don’t have time for a retreat!” I completely get that, and so I have especially designed this retreat so that you can engage as much or as little as you wish, in the way that fits best for you. Rather than being one more thing to add to your Lenten schedule, this retreat weaves easily and simply through your days.

For more info and registration, please visit our overview page at Online Lenten Retreat. And please share this link with your friends! (In addition to the individual rate, we have group rates available for folks who want to share the retreat together near or far.) You can even give the Lenten retreat as a gift! If you have questions about the retreat, or concerns about things that you think might hinder you from sharing in the journey, be sure to check out our FAQ page (you’ll find a link on the overview page).


For previous reflections, blessings, and art for Ash Wednesday, please see these posts:

Ash Wednesday: Blessing the Dust
Ash Wednesday: Rend Your Heart
The Memory of Ashes
Upon the Ashes (which features the indomitable Sojourner Truth)
The Artful Ashes
Ash Wednesday, Almost

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Blessing the Dust,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Beloved: An Online Retreat for Lent

February 20, 2014

Lent is drawing close, already! It was such a remarkable gift to travel through Advent with so many of you on the Illuminated retreat. As we look to this new season, I would love for you to join us for the all-new online retreat that I’ll be offering during Lent. Here’s a glimpse of what’s ahead:

BELOVED: An Online Journey into Lent & Easter
March 4 – April 21
New for 2014!

This online retreat is not about adding one more thing to your schedule! It is about helping you find spaces for reflection that draw you deep into the mysteries and gifts of this season. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, this retreat offers a space of elegant simplicity as you journey through Lent.

You can join in the retreat from anywhere you are; you do not have to show up at a particular place or time. You’re welcome to engage the retreat as much or as little as you wish, in the way that works best for you. If you’re hungry for a simple way to move deeply into this season, this retreat is for you.

Group and congregational rates are available. You can also give the retreat as a gift! For retreat details, FAQs, and registration, visit Online Lenten Retreat.

The season of Lent invites us to know, most of all, how utterly and thoroughly God loves us, and to let go of everything that would keep us from receiving and responding to that love. This invitation is at the heart of the Beloved Lenten Retreat. If that sounds good to you—if you’d like to lean into the love that enfolds and encompasses you—I would love to travel with you.

Blessings to you as Lent approaches.

Lent 1: A Return to the Wilderness

February 11, 2013


For my Ash Wednesday reflection, please see Ash Wednesday: Blessing the Dust
.

Reading from the Gospels, Lent 1, Year C: Luke 4.1-13

Almost Lent! As I shared in my previous post, during the coming season I’ll be devoting most of my creative energies to the online retreat that Gary and I will be offering, and we’d love to journey with you in this way. If you haven’t visited our overview page for the Lenten retreat (which you can do from anywhere, in whatever way works for you), please stop by and see what we’ll be about during the coming weeks.

Here at The Painted Prayerbook, I’ll post links to previous reflections and art for the season. After journeying through five Lents here, we have lots of resources for your Lenten path! I also have many images for Lent and Easter. See the Lent & Easter gallery at Jan Richardson Images.

I wish you many blessings as Lent begins.


For a previous reflection on this passage, click the image or title below.


Lent 1: Into the Wilderness


For related reflections on Lent 1 in other years, visit:

Wilderness and Wings
Lent 1: A Blessing for the Wilderness

 

A River Runs Through Him
Lent 1: A River Runs through Him

 

Discernment in the Desert
Lent 1: Discernment and Dessert in the Desert

 

Tempted
Day 3: Into the Wilderness


To learn more about our online Lenten retreat, click the retreat icon below. Group rates are available!

Ash Wednesday: Blessing the Dust

February 8, 2013


Image: Blessing the Dust © Jan L. Richardson

Readings for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17;
2 Corinthians 5:20b – 6:10
; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

As we work together with him, we urge you also
not to accept the grace of God in vain.
—2 Corinthians 6.1

Blessing the Dust
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

–Jan Richardson


An invitation into the coming season…

During Lent, most of my creative energies will be going toward the online retreat that Garrison Doles and I will be offering from Ash Wednesday through Easter (February 13 – March 31). We would love for you to join us for this journey and to stay connected with you in this way as Lent unfolds. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, the retreat is designed as a space of contemplative grace that you can enter from wherever you are, at any time that works for you.

We sometimes hear from folks who say, “I’d love to do this but I don’t have time for a retreat!” We totally get that, and so we have especially designed this retreat so that you can engage as much or as little as you wish, in the way that fits best for you. Rather than being one more thing to add to your Lenten schedule, this retreat is created as a way to open up some spaces for reflection and rest in the midst of your days.

If you enjoy The Painted Prayerbook, the retreat will be a great way to experience the kinds of elements you find here in a more frequent and focused fashion, with added features that will weave through the retreat and help to sustain you throughout the coming season. Plus, participating in the retreat is a great way to support the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook. Most of all, Gary and I would be so pleased to have the gift of your company in these Lenten days, and to enter together into the mysteries and gifts of the season.

If you have questions about the retreat, or concerns about things that you think might hinder you from sharing in the journey, please visit our overview page by clicking the retreat icon below. The overview page also has a link to a bonus page with FAQs. Please feel free to be in touch with me directly if you need further details. And please share this link with your friends—we’d be delighted to travel with them, too! (And we do have group rates available, for folks who want to share the retreat together near or far.) If you’d like to provide the retreat for someone as a gift, let me know, and we can easily make this happen.

Wherever your Lenten path takes you, in whatever company you travel: blessings and more blessings to you. Know that I hold you in prayer. Peace.

And for a previous reflection and blessing for Ash Wednesday, click the image or title below.


Day 1/Ash Wednesday: Rend Your Heart

For other reflections, blessings, and art for Ash Wednesday, also see my posts The Memory of Ashes, Upon the Ashes (which features the indomitable Sojourner Truth), The Artful Ashes, and Ash Wednesday, Almost.

[To use the image “Blessing the Dust,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Leaning toward Lent

January 23, 2013

It’s almost Lent, already! Having had such a great time with the folks who joined us from around the world for our online Advent retreat, Gary and I are excited about the online retreat we’re offering for the coming season. We would love for you to join us! Here’s some info that we hope will entice you:

RETURN: An Online Journey into Lent & Easter
February 13 – March 31

This is a Lenten retreat for people who don’t have time for a Lenten retreat (and for those who do!). You do not have to show up at a particular place or time. You can do this retreat from anywhere you are, and you’re welcome to engage the retreat as much or as little as you wish.

Travel toward Easter in the company of folks who want to move through this season with mindfulness and grace. This online retreat is not about adding one more thing to your schedule. It is about helping you find spaces for reflection that draw you deep into the mysteries and gifts of this season. This retreat intertwines reflection, art, music, and community, offering a space of elegant simplicity as you journey through Lent.

If you’re part of a group that would like to take the retreat together, we offer group discounts. Whether you’re part of a group that meets together in one place, such as a Bible study or book group, or a network of friends or colleagues stretched across the country or around the world, this retreat is a great way to travel through the season together.

If you’re hungry for a simple way to move deeply into this season, this retreat is for you. For more info and registration, visit Online Lenten Retreat or click the retreat logo above.

Blessings and peace to you as we lean toward Lent!


And in other news . . .

You can now view sample pages from the beautiful new hardcover edition of In Wisdom’s Path! Designed as a companion through the sacred seasons of the year, with reflections, prayers, poems, and color artwork throughout, In Wisdom’s Path includes sections for Lent and Easter. Click the cover below to visit the Books department at janrichardson.com, where you can view sample pages of In Wisdom’s Path and place orders. (And do some browsing around the site!)

 

Day 40/Holy Saturday: Therefore I Will Hope

April 5, 2012

Therefore I Will Hope © Jan L. Richardson

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in God.”
—Lamentations 3.24

From a lectionary reading for Holy Saturday: Lamentations 3.1-9, 19-24

Reflection for Saturday, April 7 (Holy Saturday/Day 40 of Lent)

I’m so taken with the way that, like those who composed the book of Psalms, the author of Lamentations—which tradition held to be the prophet Jeremiah—is able to hold seemingly conflicting emotions at once. Today’s reading consists primarily of—well, you can tell from the title of the book—a lamentation, stunning and suffocating in the way it describes the author’s sense of affliction and imprisonment. God has driven and brought me into darkness without any light, he wails; against me alone God turns a hand, again and again, all day long….God has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago. God has walled me about so that I cannot escape.

Though afflicted by destruction, the author of the lament cannot manage to sustain his despair for long. But this I call to mind, he cries out as the lament turns just before its end; and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.

Though composed as a lament for the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, one can well imagine why these words came to be associated with Christ in the tomb. Christ, who referred to himself as the Temple, now brought to death and seeming destruction; Christ in the darkness without any light.

In another lectionary passage for Holy Saturday, we read of how, after Joseph of Arimathea places Jesus’ body in the tomb and rolls a stone across the entrance, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb” (Matthew 27.61). I wonder if these words from Lamentations came to them in their waiting. In the darkness, in their sorrow, with no evident cause for rejoicing, did they, like the author of Lamentations, yet find cause for hope?

On this day—this last, final day of Lent—it may be tempting to skip ahead to what awaits us on Sunday, without giving Holy Saturday its due. We know the rest of the story. Yet how might it be to linger with these words of lamentation, as if we did not know? What if we sat ourselves down with the women opposite the tomb, and listened to their grief and longing, and waited with them? When times of darkness come in our own lives, and we don’t know the rest of the story, how does what God has done for us in the past give us cause to hope for what God will yet do?

Therefore I Will Hope
A Blessing for Holy Saturday

I have no cause
to linger beside
this place of death

no reason
to keep vigil
where life has left

and yet I cannot go,
cannot bring myself
to cleave myself
from here

can only pray
that this waiting
might yet be a blessing
and this grieving
yet a blessing
and this stone
yet a blessing
and this silence
yet a blessing
still.

P.S. For previous reflections for Holy Saturday, click the images or titles below.

Holy Saturday: The Art of Enduring

Holy Saturday: A Day Between

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