This morning I went to the Church to livestream the Holy Saturday service. It is simple, spare – a quiet, waiting time. The altar is stripped; not even the candles from Good Friday’s Veneration of the Cross were there. I was there alone until my husband slipped into a pew a few minutes after I had started. The prayers and readings don’t take long, about fifteen minutes.
The first reading was from the Book of Job (chapter 14, verses 1-14) found in the Hebrew Bible, what Christians call the Old Testament. The phrase “the scent of water” caught my attention because it is the title of a novel that I read many years ago and still enjoy. The book is about a woman who has had bitter disappointments in life and moves to a secluded place to try to heal.
When the prayers were finished, I packed up my laptop and wondered, as I always do, how much longer we will be worshipping like this, under pandemic restrictions. Holy Saturday, with its spareness and emptiness and yet with Easter in view, is a good description of where we are now – in the country, in our diocese and parish, in our own lives.
We are waiting. Waiting for people to get fully vaccinated, waiting for the virus case numbers to go down, even as the new COVID strains become more virulent. Waiting for warmer weather so we can at least gather outdoors. Waiting for the time when we can gather and celebrate the Eucharist, and see one another in the flesh, and sing together.
This waiting is so hard. It feels like it will never be over, and the waiting itself has wounded us in different ways as individuals and as a parish community. I wonder who we will be and what God will make of us in the “whatever comes next” time.
And then I looked over to the south-side windows, where the sun was streaming in on a bright spring morning, and I saw the row of green plants, one in each window, where they have always been, lovingly tended by Altar Guild members throughout the pandemic. The words “yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth branches like a young plant” sprang to mind.
The plants know; they know that God’s love and mercy are with us always. They continue to grow true to the way God made them. They have borne witness over the years to the prayers, the songs, the joy, the tears, the new beginnings and the earthly endings, the deep silences and the resounding celebrations that have been held in this place.
They have been waiting and watching for us, knowing that in God’s time renewal will happen, that we will bud and put forth branches. Today they are a sign of God’s hope. ~ Vicki McGrath+
Victoria Geer McGrath
All Saints’ Church, Millington, NJ
April 3, 2021