The culmination of Lent is Holy Weekend, prefaced by Maundy Thursday and consisting of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. I realized that each year that I have been really intentional about my Lenten engagement, one of those four “Holy Days” seems to overshadow the the others and carry over into this Easter season (yes, it’s a season).
There are some years where the foreshadowing and ever-repeating Presence of Jesus in Communion makes Maundy Thursday the highlight (or lowlight?) of Lent. Some years, the utter darkness, weight, and drama of Good Friday overtake me and linger in my mind well into Easter season. And still others, no matter how I try to reflect and meditate on sinfulness and fallenness, I still can’t escape the lighted joy and horizon-cresting dawn of Easter, whose anticipation overshadows (or over-brightens?) my Lenten experience, making all the doom and gloom seem foreign to me.
For me, this year is a Holy Saturday kind-of Easter.
Holy Saturday, is also called Silent Saturday by some parts of the Church. I like that. It captures well the way that I, at least, engage with that day. Friday already had “darkness” and “shadows”, which for me leaves only “blackness” for Saturday–the darkest dark.
But it’s not a dramatic darkness like Good Friday. For me, it occupies a liminal space between the ages. Between the Old Creation and the New–the Old Humanity and the New. It’s the same place that must have occupied Jesus’ followers: all that could have been done to destroy their faith had been done. They literally had nothing tangible to go on to anticipate anything more happening with Jesus other than the crazy stuff by Jesus they’d seen and the even crazier words from Jesus they’d heard.
So how did the disciples respond to this? As I pointed out in a previous post, the only thing of any religious significance that the Bible say was going on on Saturday was this: “On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment”. That’s all they knew to do with their despair and confusion.
In summary, for me, Holy Saturday is fundamentally about learning how to rest in the midst of your doubt and lament.
And this was how my actual Holy Saturday went. Occasionally, I have these intense, emotional, mystical experiences with God. I’ve had to learn that, for the most part, those moments are just for me and God, and don’t belong in a blog post, a sermon, or really even in my conversation with others. But occasionally, I feel free to mention it elsewhere.
During a time of prayer on Holy Saturday, I was almost literally and physically seized by a terror of my own future death and the seeming incongruity of the Resurrection with everything else I know about reality and the world. It just sounds so fantastical sometimes that it’s hard to believe. I didn’t know what to do. I felt no hand-hold for my spirit to grab as it seemed that my world was tilting and I would just slide off. And so, through tears and terror, I opened up my church’s prayerbook for this Holy Day and found the Psalm reading.
In you, O Lord, I seek refuge…
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily….
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God….
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief….
I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel….
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand….
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.
Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his
steadfast love to me when I was beset as a city under siege.
I had said in my alarm, “I am driven far from your sight.”
But you heard my supplications when I cried out to you for help.
And these words, at least for that day and this, were enough. God is here. He knows our cries. And He moves towards us in them. He speaks.
My pastor preached on John 20 for Easter. His “practical application” was to follow the example of Mary Magdelene: go into the tomb with all your doubts, fears, and uncertainty; sit in it and wait for God; and then emerge from the tomb transformed by Christ.
And this is certainly where I’ve been this Easter. I feel like I’m still sitting the tomb on Holy Saturday. And I haven’t been able to shake it. I haven’t been able to come out. Not yet. This is why I haven’t been blogging much at all. I’ve been just resting in the darkness–sitting in it–and just letting the Spirit do its work. I’ll leave you with the closing words of that Psalm that gripped me so tightly on that precious Holy Saturday, and on into this Holy Easter:
Love the Lord, all you his saints.
The Lord preserves the faithful…
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord.
May we learn what it means to have courage in our spirituality, and more importantly, may we learn to wait for the Lord in all our Holy Saturday moments.
[image credit: “Blue and Gray” by Mark Rothko]