Holy Saturday

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of Your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with Him the coming of the third day, and rise with Him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP, Holy Saturday, 221)
We exit Good Friday service in utter silence: talking in the parking lot seems almost irreverent. Holy Saturday, too, for me is one of silence -- an opportunity to meditate on all that has transpired, all that Christ has accomplished thus far, in anticipation for what we know next occurs. "This is [also] the last day of Lent," remarks Episcopal deacon Vicki K. Black, "for remembering the words spoken on Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent: 'Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.'"1 Our mortality is appropriately contrasted against the immortality of our Savior.

Though His motionless and spirit-less body is in a tomb, still and quiet, the Savior is quite alive elsewhere. We know from St Paul that Christ descended into "the lower parts of the earth" (Eph. 4:9) and from St Peter that Jesus, having been "put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit," in the spirit also "went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison" (1 Pet. 3:18, 19 ff.). Our Catechism teaches:
Q. What do we mean when we say that he descended to the dead? A. We mean that he went to the departed and offered them also the benefits of redemption.
This teaching has remained the dominant position on the subject since the beginning of the Christian faith (note the Apostles' Creed). Let us not forget that, subsequent to the bodily death of Jesus, the "tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep [who had died] were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many." (Matt. 27:52, 53)



But Holy Saturday is not a day for debate or apologetics. On this day we remain grateful for a loving and self-sacrificial Creator who cares for us and longs for us to exist in a perfect state in the presence of our triune God. Vicki Black is reminded, on this day, to also be grateful to share her life with others: "In John's gospel we read of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus braving their fear of discovery [as followers of Christ] and coming forward to care for Jesus' body after his death" (cf. John 19:38-39).

She continues: "We all need friends and loved ones who will care for our bodies when we are infirm, and after our death, just as we befriend others who also need our care."2 I have also been thinking much on this issue of needing others -- family, friends, and someone to love and by whom to be loved. Simply put: we were not created for loneliness (Gen. 2:18) but for community, companionship, tender mutuality in the wonder of sacrificial love. Vicki suggests that Holy Saturday is also "a day for resting in our humanity, as we give thanks for the community that surrounds us on every side."3 On this day of silence may we be thankful for those who have gone on before us, for those who are in our lives, those helping us along this journey toward Jesus.

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1 Vicki K. Black, Welcome to the Church Year: An Introduction to the Seasons of the Episcopal Church (New York: Morehouse Publishing, 2004), 93.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.