Between Cross and Resurrection

“Where is Religious Life today?”

On Saturday 2nd April several Sisters from various Congregations joined the Dominicans for what proved to be a deeply thought provoking day. The Niland Conference Centre played host to an excellent Day for Religious given by Sister Raymunda Jordan op. Inspired by the late Alan Lewis’ book of the same name, Sister took as her title ‘Between Death and Resurrection’. The ‘Between’ refers to Holy Saturday, a somewhat neglected day in the Liturgical Calendar and yet it forms part of the Easter Tridium.

As the morning progressed Sister showed how important it is to reflect on this. Holy Saturday is about emptiness, the powerlessness and vulnerability of Jesus, God made man. Not an easy place to stay, even for a day. Paradoxically it is in the tomb that Jesus is at his most powerful.

We were led on a journey which asked many questions giving few answers. What is the meaning of this space between death and resurrection? What do we make of the descent into hell?

From the Scriptures we moved into the present and asked what the experience of Holy Saturday may mean to us, religious sisters, today. Out of a history of great achievements, founding schools, hospitals, homes for the elderly and children, and much more, we find ourselves letting go of much, being stripped of a certain kind of power, influence and importance. The temptation to disillusionment, emptiness, despair even, is real. Perhaps this is our Holy Saturday time. Maybe this is the test of our faith. When all we built together is gone do we still hold fast and seek God’s intentions in this new, bleaker, less certain age?

Are we willing to be vulnerable, weak and out of control so that we embrace the possibility that we are being freed for something new? Are we free to hear the cry of the poor more clearly, to read the signs of our times and to drink deeply of Christ’s chalice now in today’s context? A question that challenged me came towards the end of the day.

Can we live in the fertile tomb of religious life, a challenge charged with hope? It is also charged with responsibility. There is a gap between Gospel values and reality. Can we allow ourselves to feel the pain of this gap? Maybe we are freer now to live our discipleship addressing the new issues of our times.

Sister Helen