The image of a concrete slab with a cross shaped hollow speaks to me.
The concrete reminds me of what our cities are made of and maybe even my unspoken perception of what upward economic and social mobility might be to a girl who grew up in a township. It’s seeming sense of durability and superiority as a building material makes me forget that it’s only reconstituted dust and water. However disillusioning and dissatisfying at points, somewhere in my heart I know that the city and its concreteness is redeemable. Life can grow from within its stones.
Also, this cement has a cross shaped hollow.
Being a believer in a city in this particular Easter season has exposed my idols yet again. Consumerism and a false sense of “betterness” based on spatial-economic privilege are not the brokers of personhood. Even though the philosophies and sociologies of our city-planners have resulted in unjust city policies, even though I consciously and unconsciously participate in a market-centered society where buying, selling, and grind culture is the currency of existence, I feel disrupted by this image: an empty cross that tells the story of my barrenness and of God’s unending abundance.
Even spiritual markers of time like the Easter season are typically inundated by symbols of consumerism and monuments prioritized as central signifiers of human progress. But this year, what I buy and have is irrelevant. All of these excesses have been locked outside our homes to give us enough time to notice the idols inside. Do I rely on having things to show me that I exist? These new restrictions help renew my awe in a simpler existence. They cultivate a new longing for the kingdom to be visible through my life, a kingdom that in its very simplicity moves others to join the feast. As our worlds compress into rooms and balconies, we have been awakened to the gift of the little that we have or the plenty that we have, and we are each being invited by pain to remember generosity and kindness.
In the midst of this awakening, I dream about the social evidence that Jesus was once here physically, too. And I marvel at the spatial and social footprint he left behind. Where I see willful acts of kindness and generosity, I see evidence of this kingdom he ushered in through his life, death, and resurrection.
Something is starting to give.
This year, I saw Passover contained and celebrated in the home, the story passing from parent to child and memory observed in the obscurity of divine plainness. I saw humans sacrificing what they have for the ones who have nothing. This Easter, instead of private excesses, I saw humans auditing the temples in their own hearts and refurbishing them from market places to houses of prayer. This Easter, our distractions have been disrupted. We are on lock down in the physical realm, but we may well be in the middle of a liberation of heart and spirit. I want to ruminate on these signs of life growing out of concrete.
This season has shown us much suffering and we are nowhere near the other side of it yet. But there is a parallel season we have also walked through, some more consciously than others. As the body remembers trauma and joys with each passing year, creation also remembers.
On Good Friday, creation recalls a death and murder that changed history. Jesus of Nazareth suffered on a shameful cross, holding the weight of our brittle bodies and crumbling sin-wrecked selves. On Holy Saturday, the world lingers in the silence and void of that suffering. The mere thought of God in a grave is an unbearable emptiness that won’t be shaken away. We remember the cruciform void, solidified in concrete.
These two eventful days are not erased by the season of Easter and its victory. They are enhanced by it. For God presents a kingdom that is breaking-in and death itself cannot stop it. But its king is one who went through death to initiate its arrival, a king whose grave shows us how to brave our own graves and suffering presently.
We are invited to join this kingdom. For us who live in the liminality of poverty and wealth, access and restriction, we are invited to be participants in a kingdom that is not afraid to move towards the pain of the ones in the margins of society, those whose very existence continues to be mournful past the celebration of Easter Sunday, those who live in the reality such a Saturday every day of their lives in the hardest parts of our cities. Our lament and self-awareness cannot only be an individual exercise. Holy Saturday will not be quietly dismissed of its communal implications. No, the work of Holy Saturday will follow us into the rest of this year as we come in and out of grief and acceptance, hope and despair.
So in this season, I am thankful for parallel seasons. Let us linger in the work of Silent Saturday, searching ourselves and acknowledging the graves therein, knowing that the work of lament and self-excavating can be a means for the Spirit to make us stewards of resurrection life. Sunday is coming, continually coming.
Christ is not in the grave but instead lives in us as a blinding light, an iridescent witness that light and life can indeed fill the hollow, gleaming warmth within our cold, concrete cities.
Lusanda Mashua is a member of the writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Cape Town, South Africa.