By Steven Norris
Holy Saturday. It’s one of the most overlooked parts of our Easter celebrations – at least for Protestants, that is. In some traditions it is referred to as the “longest day.” Even for the most formal and sacramental traditions, there are no liturgies or Eucharistic celebrations on Holy Saturday.
It is a solemn day…a silent day…a day of reflection and contemplation. Even the gospels are silent on this day. Neither Matthew, Mark, Luke, nor John tell us anything about Jesus’ experience on this day of questions and uncertainty.
For many Christians, as soon as the services end on Friday, our hearts go rushing toward Sunday. I remember leading a Good Friday service some years ago. It had been a particularly heavy service as we meditated on the story of Jesus’ death and burial. We closed out the service in a solemn song and sat for a moment in darkness and silence.
One well-meaning church member, trying to break the tension and relieve the weight of the moment, blurted out, “Well, Sunday’s coming.”
While he meant well, he gave voice to our inherent distaste for Holy Saturday. In the roughly 40 hours between Sundown on Friday and Sunrise on Sunday, all we can do is wait. We sit with the gravity of the cross, the gravity of our own sin, the gravity of a God who would take on flesh and, clothed in vulnerability, submit to death for us. We dare not rush ahead.
Take a moment to imagine what it must have been like for the followers of Jesus. Instead of a crown of gold, Jesus received a crown of thorns. Instead of a robe of royalty, he received a robe of mockery. Instead of a coronation, the disciples witnessed a crucifixion. On Good Friday, they watched all their messianic hopes and dreams sag under the weight of sin on the cross.
Those disciples, huddled in fear behind locked doors, had no idea that Sunday was coming. Resurrection was the last thing on their minds. Dismay. Unbelief. Confusion. Grief. I am certain that these were the unwelcome companions on that first Holy Saturday. As my friend, Ken Sehested, put it, “Distress is no less contagious than a virus.”
I can’t help but think that the world sits in these days in a kind of prolonged Holy Saturday. Locked behind doors, we wait. Fearful of an insidious, viral manifestation of evil, there is no clear end or answer in sight. We worry for those we love and for those that continue to be in harm’s way. Death is a constant companion as we watch the numbers of confirmed cases and casualties rise by the day.
Maybe this year, we can enter into a true Holy Saturday together. Maybe this year, we can be reminded that, even in the silence, Christ is at work. Maybe this year, we can pause…hold our collective breath for a moment…and wait. We don’t know how or when that knock at the door may come and what news it may bring, but we wait in expectation.