Call it the Holy Saturday dilemma….
Good Friday: without a doubt, I know the appropriate, spiritual protocol to follow from the time I rise until the time I go to sleep. I want and need to show respect for the Lord’s Passion and Death during the entire day, during all my waking hours.
Easter Sunday: I know that it is the most Jubilant Day in the Church year, and that its joyful celebration lasts through an entire Easter Season. I know that I want and need to be celebratory in response to the Lord’s Resurrection.
But what to “do” with Holy Saturday—from the time I rise, at least up until the time of the glorious evening Easter Vigil Mass—that has been my dilemma.
Do I maintain a Good Friday reverential silence out of respect for the Lord’s Death, for His Silence in the tomb? Or do I begin the Easter jubilation? …Or, even in ways having nothing to do with an Easter celebration, do I conduct “Saturday business as usual”?
In all honesty, over the years, I have not been consistent in my Holy Saturday observance, neither in attitude, nor in behavior.
As various family members have grown up, and others have grown older and died, gone are the days when I colored Easter eggs, brought baskets of food to church for a blessing, and ate special foods. …Not that I couldn’t continue those traditions….
Some years, I have extended Good Friday reverential mourning until it was time for the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil Mass. (Incidentally if you have not yet participated in, I heartily recommend. The liturgy is majestic!)
Other years, when I haven’t been focused on the Easter Vigil Mass, I have treated Holy Saturday as if it were a day to be tolerated or gotten through in order to get to Easter Sunday. As if it were an unfortunate interference, unnecessarily delaying the Easter celebration. Sometimes I think, because I know how triumphantly the story ends, I long to skip the intermission. If the events had been taped, I would fast forward to Easter Sunday.
I realize that my lack of appreciation for the unique grace of Holy Saturday is revealed in the way I pray the Stations of the Cross. In my parish, the Stations are physically situated such that there is a “break”--an area of separation--between the Thirteenth and the Fourteenth Stations. Sometimes, I stop my physical walking of the Stations with the Thirteenth, giving a nod from that Station toward the last one: Jesus’ Body is placed in the tomb.
Enter the wisdom of the Benedictine monk, Hubert van Zeller, shared in a highly instructive and inspirational book I heartily recommend to anyone who wishes to better understand the Catholic view of redemptive suffering: Suffering: The Cross of Christ and Its Meaning for You.
If I have correctly understood what Dom van Zeller shared in his examination and explanation of redemptive suffering, in general, and the chapter on suffering within the context of the Fourteenth Station, in particular, he offers the following Holy Saturday perspective.
Rather than viewing Holy Saturday as an “interval” that separates Good Friday and Easter Sunday, he advises that we see Holy Saturday as an indispensable “link” between those days—linking Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection.
On the one hand, when we give in to our inclination to see Holy Saturday as an “interval,” thereby “skipping over it,” we deprive ourselves of a sacred time of silence and darkness. On the other hand, when we are willing to view Holy Saturday as an indispensable “link” between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we open ourselves to a waiting time that is filled with fruitfulness. To reject the experience of Holy Saturday’s signature darkness and silence, Dom van Zeller suggests, is to question whether Jesus wasted His time in the tomb; to imply that in our estimation, Jesus’ Resurrection should have immediately followed His Crucifixion.
In this respect, to expand the meaning of the Holy Saturday experience, Dom van Zeller explains that we live a significant amount of our lives of Faith in a silent, often apparently dark, frustrating, and seemingly fruitless waiting time (our Holy Saturdays). As humble disciples of Jesus, we need to follow His lead; we need to reconcile ourselves to wait in the shadow of His Cross, joining our suffering to His Suffering, patiently enduring the darkness and seeming futility of the inactivity and silence of Holy Saturday, and to trust that spiritual growth is taking place, and that there will be a resurrection, a full-flowering of our holy desires to know, love, and serve Him.
To encourage us to endure the suffering of unfulfilled and frustrated desires that we often experience in our Holy Saturdays, Dom van Zeller reminds us that the Creation of the world took place against a backdrop of silence and darkness.
Throughout our lives of Faith, filled with opportunities for redemptive suffering, Dom van Zeller encourages us to look to Mary for her witness and consolation. …And so I imagine…
How must Mary have comported herself on Holy Saturday? She who waited nine months to deliver the Savior of the World, how did she spend the time between Jesus’ burial on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday? How did she prepare for her reunion with her Son, waiting to worship Him again? What can we learn from her humility and faithfulness?
Thanks to Dom van Zeller, I’ve thought about Holy Saturday and all its potential, realizing that the darkness and silence he describes is reminiscent of the soil into which the broken grain of wheat is entombed in the soil in order that after a time of unwitnessed activity, signs of fruitfulness appear. That’s what the Lord’s Death, Entombment, and Resurrection reminds me of: Jesus’ explanation, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (John 12:24)
In the end, I understand that Holy Saturday is an indispensable gift that connects Good Friday sorrow with Easter Sunday jubilation, so that, as St. Paul says, we grieve, but not like those without hope in God, since we have the assurance, thanks to the Death and Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that we have an invitation through loving obedience to His Holy Will to spend eternal life in bliss with Him (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13).
What about you? What do you “do” with Holy Saturday?