April 11, 2020 – Black Saturday
Have you ever tried being in a silent place? Away from the noise of the city streets and market, away from any music or audio and even away from the chirps of birds around?
It is deafening being in that kind of place! It becomes deafening because we have become so accustomed to noise. For that reason, we feel strange when we are confronted with silence. With that strangeness we create other noises to ignore silence. We do not dwell on silence because it is unfamiliar and uncomfortable.
However, the whole Church calls this day Black Saturday in which we observe the MAGNUM SILECIUM meaning, the great silence. What we have today is the great silence from heaven, the great silence from God who died on the cross.
This is symbolized now by the unavailability of the sacraments and closing of churches. Today, with the situation brought about by the pandemic Covid-19, the more we feel this great silence. Common worship and prayers including masses and reception of communion have all been suspended. We truly feel the sadness of Black Saturday. We certainly feel the silence that this day is calling us to dwell.
Thus, as Jesus died on the cross and was buried in the tomb, the silence of the tomb is no less than deafening. The disciples who fled at the arrest of their Master, especially Peter who denied the Lord three times, are also all silent and afraid except the women. The tomb has become a witness to the dead Messiah wrapped in linen cloth. In that tomb, God remains silent. As Jesus died on Friday, today is total silence. God was nowhere to be found or to be heard.
Nevertheless, in this kind of silence, something is happening. The tomb of Jesus will become a sign of promise in which suspicion and amazement learned to speak in the full radiance of what had to take place on Sunday morning.
In this perspective, only the walls of the tomb were able to witness what was happening. If only they could speak, perhaps, their words won’t be enough to describe the wonder of God working on this day and in the following day. This is where we too are invited to dwell and to discover how God works in our own tombs of sadness, fear, anxiety and sin.
Silence, then, is the only language of the walls of the tomb. Moreover, it is also from this silence that God raised Jesus from the dead. For in and from silence, God fulfills His promise of victory over death and the beginning of a new creation.
As Black Saturday calls us to dwell deeper on silence, certainly, God has done marvelous things in and through silence. There is nothing to be afraid then, of silence for it is a sign of God’s presence. From here, Jesus introduced to us the God of silence, ever with us.
A feeling of abandonment might be felt in times of sorrows and great trials like that of Jesus on the cross, but it is also in that silence that God continually invites us to put our trust and confidence before him. Jesus’ complete surrender to the Father is a prototype of such close relationship with God. Pope Benedict XVI said,
“Jesus teaches us that God also speaks to us, especially at times of difficulty, through his silence, which invites us to deeper faith and trust in his promises. Jesus is our great teacher of prayer; from his prayer we learn to speak with confidence to our heavenly Father as his beloved sons and daughters. In this filial dialogue we are also taught to recognize God’s many gifts and to obey his will, which gives meaning and direction to our lives.”
This is a hope given by Jesus to us. This is not a false hope, the scriptures would attest to this as the story of silence in the tomb leads us into that realization of a God of silence who brings justice, healing, life, mercy and compassion into our world. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR
 cf. Lk 23:53; Jn 19:40; Mk 15:46; Mt. 27:59.
 See Pope Benedict XVI, “On the Silence of Jesus.”