Holy Saturday: Morning Prayer

I’m always grateful for the opportunity to preach, and I was especially honored to be invited to offer a reflection during Holy Saturday Morning Prayer at St. Mary of the Lake today. Special thanks to Michael Ruzicki our director of sacred liturgy, and Fr. Manny Dorantes our pastor, for recognizing and calling forth this gift. Below is my reflection.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The only way is through. My friends and I often use this phrase when life deals a particular hardship, when we would much rather go searching for a short cut, rather than address a painful situation head on. The only way through it is to go through it.  Holy Saturday is a “through” moment. 

The gospel writers don’t tell us much about Holy Saturday.  There is exactly ½ of one verse (Luke 23:56b) that says, “And on the sabbath day they rested according to the commandment.” 

They “rested” is putting it nicely! Let’s be honest, the disciples probably spent the night tossing and turning! Imagine, how would you feel if you had just witnessed the most brutal torture and death of someone you loved?  Someone you had just shared a meal with not even 2 days ago!

They probably spent the day sobbing, numb, staring into space, and asking themselves, “how could this possibly have happened?!”  I imagine the disciples paralyzed with fear, ashamed at running away, chewing on the bitterness of denial and betrayal. The women, who watched a stone rolled across the tomb, longing to return to the garden. All of them, wrestling with the “What if’s …” and “If only we had…”  

It’s the kind of grief that leaves you sick to your stomach.  I sure hope someone brought them a nice ham, or a casserole, or a tray of tamales!

It is tempting to want to fast forward through Holy Saturday into Easter, because we all know what’s coming next! We all know what happens tonight, and what we celebrate tomorrow!  

Poet and artist Jan Richardson describes Holy Saturday as the day between the dying and the rising.  A day that calls us to hold our anguish and our hope in the same hand.  A day that invites us to marvel that when our heart has been shattered, it somehow manages to keep beating. That we somehow manage to keep breathing.  Still. 

In the great Pascal mystery, Holy Saturday during the day is the “through” moment, the in-between place.  Where we’re left wondering, wandering, and waiting.  Waiting in hope for hope to arrive. 

Because, let’s face it friends, most times in life, we don’t know how the story will end! There are so many moments in life, when life completely falls apart!

And we stand numb, struggling to comprehend, and asking ourselves “how could this possibly have happened?!” Moments that we have to keep walking “through” in order to find new life on the other side.

I know a couple who has experienced 4 miscarriages in the last 4 years. They recently said, “We’re done! We are done trying.”  And now, they wait in hope for hope to arrive … knowing that their vision for a family will not look like what they had imagined. 

I have a dear friend who moved to the US last year seeking political asylum.  It was not an easy decision – but risking new life was far better than living in fear under an oppressive government.

It’s been 24 years this month since the mass shooting at Columbine High School. The number of lives lost to senseless gun violence in our country leaves me numb! Last week dozens of high school students walked out in protest in response to the school shooting in Tennessee.  They’ve said “enough already!” Advocacy is their act of hope, as we go “through” this again.

All this leaves me asking, “Where is Jesus?!” in these moments when we are waiting in hope for hope to arrive?  One of the ancient readings for Holy Saturday says that “God has died in the flesh, and Hell trembles with fear.”

Jesus descended into Hell. So great is his love for us that Jesus dares to enter into the most forsaken place, Hell, to announce even there, that death will not win. Jesus descends into Hell to confront the powers of evil, to unite himself once and for all, with the very source of our suffering, to announce hope to a fallen world.  And Hell trembles, because perfect love casts out all fear.  Hell trembles, because Jesus the Light of the world, has entered into the darkness.  Jesus himself, holding our shattered yet beating hearts.

And we know how this story ends!

Before we get to Easter, before the great Vigil tonight, before Christ’s resurrection is proclaimed – perhaps in the midst of baking, and preparing, and decorating – I encourage you to spend some time in the wondering and the wandering. What is that place, in your life, in our world, where you are waiting in hope for hope to arrive? Invite Jesus to walk with you and show you the way through.

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