Holy Saturday – John 19:38-42
“They laid Jesus there.”
That’s it. There was nothing more to say, nothing more to do. “They laid Jesus there.” That’s the conclusion to Holy Week. That’s Holy Saturday.
Not many churches celebrate Holy Saturday. And of those that do, very few people show up for this day. And why would we want to? There’s enough grief and loss in the Good Friday of life. And we don’t need or want any more. Besides, not much happens today in the church.
Today the liturgy is short and sparse – some readings, a homily, and a couple of prayers. It might last twenty minutes. Today the church is colorless, stripped, barren. So, more often than not the Holy Saturday liturgy gets forgotten or ignored.
Holy Saturday, however, is not just a day on the church’s calendar. It’s the experience of our hearts being pierced. While we can avoid Holy Saturday in the church, no one escapes the Holy Saturday of life.
Holy Saturday is an in between day. It’s the day after Good Friday and the day before Easter. What was is no longer and what will be is not yet. If Good Friday is the day of the loss, Holy Saturday is that day when the reality of the loss begins to set in. And I’ll bet you know what that’s like.
Holy Saturday is the day after. It’s the day after the death. It’s the day after your heart broke, the day after he died, the day after the relationship ended, the day after the job was lost, the day after the diagnosis, the day after a dream was shattered, the day after a part of your life, a part of yourself, has died.
I wish I could tell you that Holy Saturday lasts only one day, but I can’t. It may be one day on the church’s calendar but rarely is it only one day on the calendar of our lives. Holy Saturday is a time of waiting. How long O Lord, how long? It’s a time of wondering when it will get better, or if it will ever get better. It’s a time of asking what’s next and whether there will even be a next.
It’s a time when there’s not much to say or there’s everything to say and no words with which to say it. Either way it’s a time of silence – the kind of silence that leaves you empty and restless.
I wonder what your Holy Saturday is today? What has broken your heart? What have you laid there in the tomb?
“They laid Jesus there” in the tomb. That’s the conclusion to Jesus’ passion but it’s not the final ending. That it is not the final ending for Jesus is our hope on this day. It is our hope for the world, for others, and for ourselves.
We do “not sorrow as those without hope.” Remember what the Apostles’ Creed says. “He was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead.” Or as another translation says, “He descend into hell.” And that is so beautifully portrayed in the Church’s iconography. It’s called the Harrowing of Hell. That’s where Jesus is on the Holy Saturday of your life.
Look at the icon what do you see? It’s Jesus breaking open the graves, bringing out Adam and Eve, the images and representatives of all people. And there at the bottom is the personification of death tied and bound up. And the locks and keys and chains of death have been broken and scattered.
In the Holy Saturday of your life Jesus descends into the dead and hellish parts of your life, “trampling down death by death, and giving life to those in the tomb.”