Anyone who has had to sit through one of my Easter sermons knows that, as joyful as I find Resurrection Sunday to be, the holiest part of the Triduum for me is Saturday. I think it is impossible for us to fully grasp the joy and hope and celebration of Christ’s resurrection, to understand the power God wields over death, if we haven’t first sat with the weight of death. Christ cannot rise if he does not first descend…and neither can we.
I feel that even more keenly today. The Resurrection is televised this year, and recording in advance means that I had to step away from Saturday…honestly, before I was ready to. At the same time, this weird season almost feels like a Triduum loop so I felt the joy I proclaimed to the camera.
For now, I’m returning to Saturday. I’m returning to Mary of Magdala’s side, heart draped in darkness even as the sun beats down. Mary, who with Jesus’s mother and other women who loved and followed him, stood at the cross and watched his life ebb away. I don’t think one must subscribe to a Dan Brown-esque theory about their relationship to justify the devastation coursing through Mary; the Gospels show us that Jesus is deeply and powerfully connected to those who follow him closest, and that they are as deeply and powerfully connected to him (even when they mess up, Peter.*)
This will surely surprise no one: there is a perfect Frozen II scene that speaks to me of Mary’s grief.
**Spoilers ahead — why haven’t you downloaded Disney+ yet?**
You are lost, hope is gone…
Anna and Olaf are looking for a way out of the dark cavern when a flurry of magic flies in: the truth that Elsa sought in Ahtohallan. Far from reassuring, the image of King Runeard betraying the Northuldra shakes Anna as she realizes that she must put her land in danger to set things right.
It’s okay, though. “Elsa’s probably on her way back. We’ll meet her and…” But this can’t be. As the magic in Olaf fades, he offers a sad smile.
“I’m sorry Anna. You’re going to have to do this next part on your own.”
The next scene opens on Anna again, crouched alone, her torch extinguished. She alone bears the truth of Elsa’s and Olaf’s apparent deaths, as she bore Olaf in her arms. She alone realizes, as she begins to sing, that everything has changed. What can possibly be left after such a seismic shift?
Just do the next right thing…
And we see Mary, alone with her thoughts on a Sabbath that is anything but restful. She has followed Jesus, learned from him, observed his healing, loved him, and yet there was so much she had yet to understand. And Jesus was gone. What can possibly be left? She didn’t even get to say goodbye.
And the Gospel tells us that she rose before dawn on the third day, prepared to anoint him for final burial. What ran through her mind?
Can this be real?
Will I even be able to get to him?
I can’t do this. I can’t say goodbye.
How to rise from the floor when it’s not you I’m rising for?
The story we will tell tomorrow could be quite different. But Mary, like her pop culture counterpart Anna, looks to her next step…takes the next breath…and moves toward the next right thing.
And with the dawn, what comes then?
When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again…
Then I’ll make the choice to hear that voice
And do…the next right thing.
*Limited shade to Peter, none of us gets it right.