A Catholic Monthly Magazine

On Holy Saturday

On Holy Saturday

Fr Kevin Head SM

In the seminary, we students were encouraged to draw the curtains in our rooms on Holy Saturday. This was to remind us that Christ was in his dark grave, in the underworld, to give us a sense of solidarity with him and to indicate, in some small way, the significance and solemnity of the day.

It is easy to neglect the importance of Holy Saturday because when we have made the Stations of the Cross and taken part in the Good Friday ceremonies our faith assures us that the Resurrection of the Lord will happen as surely as the sun rises out of the darkness of night. As a consequence, it is easy to forget the day when Jesus lay lifeless in the tomb.

Compared to the observance of other days in Holy Week, Saturday can feel uncertain and uneasy in the face of the unknown. On the other hand, when altars are bare, churches are silent, and there is no celebration of the Eucharist, Holy Saturday provides us with an opportunity to take to heart the fact Jesus did, indeed, die. God was dead.

And Holy Saturday reflects real life – the times when we have no answers; when we feel empty and uncertain. And Holy Saturday relates to many people’s experience today.

On that day after Jesus died, it would not have crossed his friends’ minds that he would rise from the dead. His mission had failed, and his followers thought they would never see him again. They were desolate, hopeless, helpless and afraid.

Their experience was not unlike that of many people, Christian or otherwise, nowadays. Much of our society has little if any sense of God’s presence and is not even vaguely interested in God. Our world and our Church can seem to be falling apart.

On Holy Saturday, we wait and sit in the unknown and the darkness. God’s absence and the dark tomb of Holy Saturday are the reality for many. Those who live with constant, deep, grinding depression; parents who have lost a child; addicts resisting their addictions bravely, yet falling again and again; parents failing to pay the rent because they want to feed their children well, or not feeding their children properly because they have to pay the rent …

In the Apostles' Creed, we express our faith that Jesus "descended into hell." This “descent” of Jesus guarantees that God is there in the most wretched places of the human heart and in the most desperate situations in which humans live. The worst that humans can suffer in terms of despair, rejection, sadness, loss, depression – the Lord is there.

A writer called Guy Sayles wrote, “I’m especially drawn to the silence of Holy Saturday: the uneasy, uncertain quiet of the sealed tomb and the still, stagnant air of nothingness. There are no more cries of agony from the cross but not yet any shouts of Alleluia either -- only the sheer silence of the unknown and the in-between. That place of non-existent existence is where we sometimes are; knowing that God-in-Jesus has endured it assures us that there really is nothing which can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).”

May you be blessed with the conviction that nothing … can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus so that your celebration of Easter may be truly joyful and peaceful in the Risen Lord.

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