An annual Christmas Day post is about the only tradition I’ve managed to maintain over the years on this here blog. I’m determined to make another tradition out of writing about Holy Saturday (the day between “Good Friday” and “Easter” on the Christian liturgical calendar). It is to me the most honest day of the year.
The male disciples have betrayed Jesus or scattered into the wind. The faithful women disciples stayed to witness everything: the sham trial, the bogus conviction, and the unjust execution of Jesus. But now Jesus is dead and entombed. So the women walk away in grief. Jesus is dead.
“It’s Friday…but Sunday’s comin’!”
That’s a popular refrain among Christians on these final days of Holy Week. But we might reasonably respond in our most skeptical tone, “Yeah, right.”
Over on my favorite blog, Slacktivist, Fred Clark posted Holy Saturday. First seen in 2010, he’s reposted it every year. Fred has written a ton of great pieces over the years, but that one remains a favorite. Though, as Fred writes, “favorite” might not be the best word for his post or for this day. But it rings true like almost nothing else.
This day, the Saturday that can’t know if there will ever be a Sunday, is the day we live in, you and I, today and every day for the whole of our lives. This is all we are given to know. Easter Sunday? That’s tomorrow, the day after today. We’ll never get there in time. We can believe in Easter Sunday, but we can’t be sure. We can’t know for sure. We can’t know until we’re out of time.
There are some things we can know on this Saturday. Jesus is dead, to begin with, dead and buried. He said the world was upside-down and needed a revolution to turn it right-way-round and so he was executed for disturbing the peace. He came and said love was greater than power, and so power killed him.
That post 11 years ago really helped me better understand what this Saturday of Holy Week really means. I look forward to reading it every year and it always moves me. This past year — living in the midst of the COVID pandemic, watching the death toll rise exponentially to now over 550,000 USAmericans — made every day feel like Holy Saturday. A year ago we wondered when we would ever get back to normal life. We now know that will never happen. There is no going back. There is only the new normal of life with masks and social distancing. Sure, many — too many — of our neighbors are behaving as if the pandemic is over. But most of us know the danger is still very real.
Many of us are also recognizing we shouldn’t go back to normal even if we could. Pre-pandemic normal here in the U.S. was ruled by White supremacy, bigotry, and the anger, hate, and suffering they always, inevitably bring. A more honest statement would be, we are still ruled by bigotry, but way more of us White folks are at least acknowledging that truth and trying to change it. Meanwhile, White supremacist insurrectionists attacked our Capitol on January 6 and continue to perpetrate mass shootings. We are as a society addicted to guns and to gun violence as a solution to our problems. Racist voter suppression policies are enacted all over the country, with Georgia the most prominent example because it cost them the MLB All Star game. In Minnesota, as his trial continues, it is an open question whether former officer Derek Chauvin will be convicted of the murder of George Floyd we all saw him commit on video.
Given all that the pandemic and violence in all its forms has wrought, we can feel overwhelmed — overrun even — by uncertainty, fear, loneliness, despair, and death.
Today, perhaps like no other Holy Saturday in memory, we feel the weight of this day. Today, perhaps like no other Holy Saturday in memory, we feel the silence of this day.
As Dr. Tony Jones writes in his excellent book, Did God Kill Jesus?:
On Good Friday, at the very moment Jesus’ faith hit its nadir, God’s humility reached its zenith. But Jesus didn’t know that. Like so many others before him and since, at the very moment that Jesus was most in need, all he heard was silence.
As counterintuitive as this sounds, if all you hear today is silence know that you are not alone.
I can’t say for certain that “Sunday is comin’!” but I’m going to try to keep living as if it is.