Saturday, April 15, 2006
Easter vigil
I did not discover Tolkien's Lord of the Rings until college. I took a class on the Inklings. We read Lewis, Tolkien and Williams. I have this memory of reading Fellowship of the Ring for the first time. I may be 19 years old and sitting in the local coffee shop late on a Friday night, but I am standing at the bridge of Khazad-dum. "You cannot pass!"

With a terrible cry the Balrog fell forward, and its shadow plunged won and vanished. But even as it fell it swung its whip, and the thongs lanshed and curled about the wizard's knees, dragging him to the brink. He staggered, and fell, grasped vainly at the stone, and slid into the abyss. 'Fly, you fools!' he cried, and he was gone.

I wept that night in the coffee shop.

In this closing hours of Lent, two cinematic scenes pester me will not leave me alone. I confess I did not watch the Passion of the Christ this Lenten season. Instead, I just watched this scene from Fellowship of the Ring. This is how I "get" the terrible loss of Good Friday, how I associate the grief of losing the guide and of losing all hope. As Frodo screams, "Gandalf!" my stomach knots. It stops me. I halt, and I remember.

Last night a group of us watched Bergman's The Seventh Seal. The picture that sticks with me is one of the closing images. In silhouette, Death leads six of our main characters, hand in hand, looking like a chain-gang, over the horizon: "And the strict lord Death bids them to dance." This is the fate of sin and death. This is what all the soteriologic rhetoric ("I got saved!") is for. I think this image is the condition of us all pre-Easter. I am saved from the dance of Death. It stops me. I halt, and I remember.

It is Saturday night.
Remember, the body is still in the tomb.
Remember, there is a day before a Savior.
Remember, there is a day with no "hallelujah."
Remember, there is a day for wringing hands, not clapping them.
Remember, there is a day the people of God scattered in fear.
Remember, there is a day hope extinguished.
Remember, there is a day shadow and flame conquered.
Remember, there is a night of seemingly broken promises.
It is Saturday night.

There is a day for singing the songs of Zion.
This is not it.
This is the night for singing Psalm 88.
This is the night for singing Psalm 137.
This is the night for singing "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded."
This is the night for singing "O Love Divine, What Hast Thou Done."
This is the night for singing "Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed."
This is the night for mourning the death of my favorite dream.

Only tomorrow are we Easter people.

Tomorrow I will bellow the words of the prophet Hosea at the top of my lungs. Tomorrow scream the words of Paul as loud as I can.

Tonight I huddle in the solemn darkness, some disillusioned and sobbing disciples my only complany.

posted by Peter at 11:53 PM
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