Holy Saturday

by Kris Judd

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God.  This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.

On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Luke 15:50-556(NRSV)

Death surrounded them, encircled them, and knocked them off their feet. The events of the preceding days had happened so quickly they had no time to fully prepare for the life-changing, hope-betraying crucifixion they had just witnessed. The future that had been so bright, filled with miracles and baptisms and new followers suddenly turned dark, just as the skies that stood over the three crosses just the day before.

Jesus was dead. The dreams to challenge the empire were now dead as well. What would become of these men and women who had given up everything they knew—careers, family, security, status—to follow this crazy dreamer? If they had known it was going to end this way, would they have made the same choices? What was left for them to choose now—now that their world had ended?

Filled with shock, then sadness and fear, they chose to hide, cloistered together. They had been told to wait, but for what? They had waited all of their lives for this Redeemer. Could they wait any longer? What other choices did they have but to wait? They did what was most familiar and perhaps comforting to them in this time of chaos and confusion. They stopped trying to make life work; they observed Sabbath and rested.

For today’s readers, this day offers us Sabbath as well. Holy Saturday extends to us the same invitation to rest in an uncomfortable place where we do not know exactly what we are waiting for, but where we can’t return to what we once had. We live suspended between the familiar and the unseen, between what we know and what we must trust. No wonder we numbly move from the crucifixion to the resurrection, barely noticing the 24 hours in between. It’s too painful to live in this space between death and new life. It’s easier to be in the certainty of one or the other.

Like the early disciples, we live in chaos, confusion, deep sadness, and even fear. The future we had prepared for is no longer visible, and perhaps not even possible, since crucifixion erased those dreams and resurrection hasn’t yet been made real.

Sister Joan Chittister writes, “The spirituality of religious life today is neither the spirituality of the cross nor the spirituality of the resurrection. The spirituality of our time is the spirituality of Holy Saturday: a spirituality of confusion and consternation, of ineffectiveness and powerlessness, of faith in darkness and the power of hope. It is a spirituality that carries on when carrying on seems most futile.”—The Fire in These Ashes, p 41

This day of preparation, Holy Saturday, is a day to carry on into what seems futile and to live in the mystery of endings when we long for new beginnings. This is a day to surrender into an agenda that is not our own, in a world where our vision of what makes sense gives way to a future that is not tied to our desires or plans. Without the dying, there will be no new life or transformation for us or for the world. On this day, let us rest, release control, and simply make space for that which will be soon unwrapped before us.

HOLY IN-BETWEEN

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: “Entering the silence” is based on a practice of the Seneca (First People) Nation. The imagery is adapted from the words of Twylah Nitsch:

Close your eyes. Breathe out three times.
Listen and hear the Silence…Listen and see the Silence.
Listen and taste the Silence…Listen and smell the Silence.
Breathe out one time. Listen and embrace the Silence.
When you are finished, open your eyes.

Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

This is the in-between time- when no promise of resurrection can ease the grief and fear rising as swells within the soul. This is the time for feeling, really feeling, the disbelief, the anguish, as you walk away from the tomb where all your hope has been laid. This is the time for keeping vigil, for waiting… for what?

This is the time between death and resurrection where some hallowed space in us is opening a way for something new that we cannot yet see or even imagine.

Joan Chittister suggests that this in-between time is exactly where we are called to be, and that it is also holy.

“The spirituality of religious life today is neither the spirituality of the cross nor the spirituality of the resurrection. The spirituality of our time is the spirituality of Holy Saturday: a spirituality of confusion and consternation, of ineffectiveness and powerlessness, of faith in darkness and the power of hope. It is a spirituality that carries on when carrying on seems most futile.” P.41, The Fire In These Ashes

These may be the moments when we experience most profoundly the counter-cultural nature of discipleship, the ineffective way of love that is transforming our lives with this perplexing downward motion. God-with-us crucified.

I cannot even begin to imagine the heart-wrenching agony of the disciples who had literally left everything to follow the One they just watched die a violent and infuriatingly unjust death. I don’t want to speculate on the details of the mystery that occurred between losing hope and finding it again- but it feels like this holy day has something to say to us now about the power of life in God’s spirit that continues even when we feel like everything is ending.

Sister Chittister challenges us to discover the full meaning of this time: “This isn’t a time for quitting simply because the past is past and the present is unclear. This is not a time for not beginning just because the journey is uncharted. In fact, what an older generation promised a lifetime ago may only now be beginning to come to pass, to make its demands, to reveal its meaning.” P.41, The Fire In These Ashes

What if what we try so hard to avoid and escape actually contains the future we have been longing for? What if in this ending is a new beginning already unfolding within us, around us? What if the point of the past was to prepare us for this time, not to cling to what was and make an idol of it? What if we are invited to be fully present in this in-between space so that our hearts will be ready to live with Christ the resurrection life?

On Holy Saturday, we are confronted with the depth of our commitment to Christ even when what feels good and familiar about the life of faith appears to be gone. “The question, of course, is for what did we hope when we committed ourselves to such a way as this? For certainty? For approval? For clarity? Surely the answer is far deeper than that.” Joan Chittister, P.178, The Fire In These Ashes

It is this deeper answer in each of us that sustains in the dark, uncertain moments of our faith. The Lenten wilderness has been preparing us for this day. We have been slowly releasing our attachments to success, security, and power for the downward love way to wind into our hearts resurrection potential.

This is the time between death and resurrection where some hallowed space in us is opening a way for something new that we cannot yet see or even imagine.

Keep vigil. Be expectant. Mourn if you must. Unlock these fear doors in the heart.

In the darkness of the tomb is mystery, a continuing.

This in-between space is also holy.