“What is there left to do but pray, if the story of God’s own death and burial be true?”
… asks Alan E. Lewis in his exquisite Magnus Opus and final work, Between Cross & Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday. It took me a few years to contemplatively masticate this final meal that Lewis set out. It is a work not to be sped-read; it is to be savoured. And, in his epilogue he writes:
“To pray is to confess not the abundance but the exhaustion of one’s verbal, intellectual, and spiritual resources. It is surrender to the one who prays for us when we have no prayers left and can only do so only when we acknowledge our own bankruptcy of spirit.”
Thus on the final page of his final book before his life ended, is this prayer. Join in his last profound thoughts aimed Godward; pray with anticipation and with the poverty of words, however blessed he may have been to articulate them on our behalf:
Triune God, who loves in freedom and has chosen us for all eternity to be your creatures and your partners: in humility majestic and powerfulness almighty, you have made our humanity your own. In Jesus, you came closer to us than we are to ourselves, yet more like us though so greatly different from us; and in him, rejected by his own and destroyed by law, religion, politics, you lived our life, you died our death, and you occupied our grave.
God the Son, for us, between your dying and your rising, you lay buried in a tomb and descended into hell. Cursed for our sin and extinguished by our perishing, you suffered all our agonies of pain and judgement and abandonment, succumbing to the evil one who held us in the grip of fear and guilt, and our world in bondage to injustice and death.
God the Father, for us you freely gave up your beloved Son, sacrificed and surrendered him to death; and thus bereft, you added to our tears of shame, bewilderment, and rage your own infinity broken-heartedness and indignation at the tragic, proud estrangement of your children, and the wasteful corruption your beautiful creation.
God the Spirit, for us you held together the forsaking Father and forsaken Son, with unifying, resurrecting bonds of love, while death’s hostility, our hearts of sin, and all the hatred of a crooked universe tore your divine family asunder. And still you groan beyond all utterance from creation’s liberation, interceding for your church when our faith stumbles and our tongues fall silent before the continuing tyranny of evil.
God the Three-in-One, whose unity is realized in communal exchange between Father, Son, and Spirit; eternal Lord, whose changeless, ever changing being is fulfilled in the dynamic of history and becoming: across the abyss of separation on the cross and in the grave you have reconciled the world and swallowed up our death, making space for our humanity within your own divine community. Hear our prayer for a world still living an Easter Saturday existence, oppressed and lonely, guilty of godlessness and convinced of godforsakenness. Be still tomorrow the God you are today, and yesterday already were: God with us in the grave, but pulling thus the sting of death and promising in your final kingdom an even greater victory of abundant grace and life over the magnitude of sin and death.
And for your blessed burial, into which we were baptized, may you be glorified for evermore. Amen.