Hymn text from the Holy Saturday Divine Office
Selection from Holy Week Message by Bishop Sue Harper Johnson, North Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (3/28/2018)
I have found that each year I tend to focus on one aspect of Holy Week, usually, one reflecting the current circumstances in my life. This year I have been fixated on Holy Saturday. Let’s face it, Holy Saturday doesn’t get much airtime in the Protestant church. No Easter vigils, baptisms, bonfires, etc. We tend to move quickly from the drama of Good Friday to the joy of Easter morning and often use Saturday for Easter Egg hunts and children’s events.
I don’t think we are giving Holy Saturday its due. It is a day of silence and waiting, a day when the disciples must have contemplated the horror of the crucifixion, agonized over their fear and betrayal and succumbed to the depths of despair. All must have seemed lost.
But while the disciples wandered around in a fog of despair, God was doing God’s finest work. Within the dark and silence of the tomb, God’s resurrection power was bringing life out of death. The tomb became a womb of new life and possibility. And Jesus, firstborn from the dead, laid aside his grave clothes and neatly folded up the cloth from his head. He then headed to hell to proclaim that death had been conquered. And that’s that. The mystery of the ages, the miracle of all miracles, completed in a Saturday.
Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience,
for to wait is often harder than to work. – Peter Marshall
Selection from Worship in the Light of the Cross by John Indermar
Holy Saturday awkwardly interrupts the church’s calendar. We read in Luke of the women who rest on this day in Sabbath observance. But we find it hard to replicate their rest in our day.
The prior week’s preparations for palm processions, Passion Week cantatas, and/or seven last word recollections leave little time for decorating sanctuaries and making ready for Easter breakfasts and final practices of brass quartets for Sunday’s alleluias – not to mention eggs to dye and family banquets to prepare. So much to do on Saturday and so little time.
But Holy Saturday offers this advice to activist-bent individuals and congregations and denominations like my own: Don’t just do something, stand there. Sometimes, our busyness cocoons and insulates us from a deep consideration of why we think our lives require constant motion. Busyness has often been a prescription for overcoming grief. Do this, do that, work your way out of it. But once the activity dies down, when exhaustion inevitably sets in, the questions and the pain remain, perhaps aggravated by delay in their contemplation.
The women in Luke [23:55-56] actively engage in the immediate aftermath of crucifixion. They follow to see where the body has been taken. They prepare spices and ointments for anointing the corpse. But instead of pressing ahead in a rush to get things done ASAP, they stop. They keep the sabbath. In Luke’s terms, they rest. Luke’s word Heschazo carries dual meanings of “to keep quiet” and “to cease from labor.” The women keep Saturday’s vigil in stillness and quietness.
Reflection on Waiting by Henri J. M. Nouwen
To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.
Prayer for Holy Saturday by Lisa Degrenia
Lord of the Sabbath, Lord of Hosts,
There are so many things we do not understand
Help us to trust you
even when the situation is desperate and out of control
Help us to follow you
even when the way unclear
Help us to wait and rest
even when every bit of us screams to act
Build in us a faith that perseveres
Even when we can’t see you
Or feel you near
Your power and goodness are never diminished
Morning is coming
Click Here for a video of an ancient homily for Holy Saturday, author unknown
Prayer for Holy Saturday © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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(by Lisa Degrenia, revlisad.com) Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.