I grew up Catholic, a religion that places a heavy and somber emphasis on Lent. In my book I write about weekly church services during Lent, where we replayed the last moments of Jesus’ life through the Stations of the Cross:
“Father Gavin leads us through all fourteen stations: Jesus falls carrying the cross. Jesus speaks to the crying women and says, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but for yourselves and for your children.’ Jesus is nailed to the cross. Jesus dies on the cross. I drank in death during the week and could not escape it on Sundays.”
There was something theatric and poetic about this ritual. I loved the names: alliterative like Simon of Cyrene and Mary Magdalene; rhythmic like Joseph of Arimathea.
Today, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, is typically referred to as Holy Saturday. This was the day that the high priests in Jerusalem went to Pontius Pilate and asked for a guard to be placed outside of Jesus’ tomb. Jesus had said he would rise in three days; the priests wanted to make sure no one came and stole the body to fake a resurrection.
While at church on Good Friday, I was reminded of what a detailed account we have of Jesus’ burial–probably the most famous burial story out there. Now that my book is out, I’m hearing from readers, and thinking more again of my family members who have died (Dad, Grandpa, Grandma), and remembering how devout they were and how important the Lenten and Easter season was to them, it was as if I heard the story of Joseph of Arimathea with new ears.
“After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby. [John 19:38-42]
People who know me know of my fascination with Renaissance-era art. It’s no wonder that this scene, referred to as the Lamentation, is the subject of numerous paintings. The emotion–the sadness, grief, despair, hopelessness–makes for rich, rich art. Not only in paintings, but also in music, theater, dance, and writing.