Welcoming Silence, Welcoming Grief: A Holy Saturday Reflection from the Rev. Arrington Chambliss of Episcopal City Mission

This last day of the forty days of Lent is one of silence.  Altars are still stripped of candles and crosses. There is no Holy Communion or preaching.  We are just with ourselves in the wake of the reality of Good Friday, the violent death of God-with-us.  Words and actions fail to capture the mystery and importance of the holy emptiness on this Saturday.

I believe the wisdom of this day that finds a particular expression in the Christian tradition is essential for our common lives and for the work of creating whole communities.

Many years ago, I was a part of a spiritual activism fellowship with an organization called stone circles. I joined an impressive group of eight leaders from different spiritual traditions – Diné, Jewish, Christian, Lakota and Buddhist.  During this time, my relationship with a beloved partner was ending. I cried between every session. I had difficulty focusing or seeing that I belonged among this group of powerful leaders. I was a mess; my heart was breaking and I could not contain it.

One of the leaders, a healer and teacher from the Diné tradition, pulled me aside and generously welcomed me and my grief.  She thanked me for being willing to grieve and shared that in her tradition there was a teaching that we must cry the tears of seven generations of our grandmother’s uncried tears to heal the world.

Her loving kindness and acknowledgement of our common humanity contradicted how I had been raised in white, middle class southern culture – hiding grief and those more unsavory bits of being human. Making space for all aspects of my humanity; she opened the way for my healing and the group’s fuller connection. And I was able to find my spiritual leadership and wisdom born from the truth of grief and loss and brokenness acknowledging it as a natural part of the human experience,  not meant to be experienced in isolation, but with others.

I believe this is also the wisdom of Holy Saturday. Easter new life and liberation are preceded by Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  How do we pause to acknowledge the small and large deaths in our personal and collective lives? How can I become more comfortable with silence and all aspects of being human including the grief, emptiness and uncertainty that draws me into more wholeness? How does this healing wisdom impact our work for justice?  

The promise of Easter, the promise of a Love that defies death, becomes more poignant and real, as we learn to sit with death and the heart break and emptiness of Holy Saturday.  The Spirit promises to breakthrough Though we will not know the truth of her promise, unless we become comfortable with the silence and waiting of Holy Saturday.

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Arrington was the co-founder and former Executive Director of Life Together. Ordained to Episcopal Priesthood in 2004, she served five years as Assistant/Associate Rector with the Church of St. Andrew in Marblehead, MA. Prior to ordination, she founded No Ordinary Time, an organization that worked primarily with young activists, artists and faith-based leaders to integrate faith, spirituality and reflective practice into their social justice work. Past work includes the National Community Service field for Campus Outreach Opportunity League (COOL), a campus organizing project; and Project Leadership Education Employment Opportunities (LEEO), an organization aimed at channeling the leadership skills of gang-affiliated young men. She is particularly interested in the intersection between the inner work of contemplative prayer, reflection and healing and the outer work of nonviolent action, reconciliatory dialogue, and community organizing to bring about social change and with God's help, grow the kingdom of God on earth.

Arrington was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She holds a master's degree from Harvard Divinity School. She lives in Jamaica Plain with her partner and seven-year old daughter.

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