Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Day of the Second Death

On the Friday of Holy Week, evil has its way. The forces that seek power, domination, and predictability have carried the day, silencing the one who challenged their dominance.

On the Saturday of Holy Week it is apparent that death, too, has had its way. Jesus lies cold in a donated tomb, inhabiting the space that all people will ultimately occupy. The grave makes commoners of us all, giving no preference to any in the end. Jesus, it appears, was just another good person who met the same end as all other people.

And Saturday is a silent day, a day of grief, a day that marks the loss of hope.

In some Hispanic cultures, there is an annual celebration called El Dia de los Muertos—The Day of the Dead. Amidst all the celebration and candy skeletons and music, there is a core purpose to this day. It is a day to remember the loved ones who have preceded us to the grave.

People in these cultures sometimes say that they celebrate this day because there are three deaths. The first is when your body stops functioning and you breathe your last. The second is when your body is lowered into the ground and you are buried.

The third death is when you are forgotten.

Holy Saturday is a second-death day. For some, it is the day that the challenge to religious, political, and military dominance is buried. For others, it is the day that hope and wonder find their place in the grave. For still others, it is the day that another nuisance is covered with dirt and the process of forgetting begins so that everything can return to normal.

But on this second-death day, Jesus takes normal to the grave with him.

The players in this ancient drama all stand in the same place. Their world is now one without Jesus. While some rejoice and others mourn, they all await the third death. They all know that their memories will ultimately decline. And with that third death, all will affirm that the grave does, indeed, have the last word.

And on the third day, there will be a third death, as memory begins its decay like the organisms that slowly consume a corpse.

And on the third day, there will be a third death . . .

And on the third day . . .

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