Before we start today’s post, I need you to stop and think about what the rest of your day holds. Is this the only thing you plan on reading today? If the answer is yes, I need you stop right here. Please click on this link for today’s Office of Readings and scroll down to what is titled, “Second Reading.” This reading is one of the most beautiful texts the Church offers us for the entire year. I would be ashamed if this blog post deprived you of the opportunity to let those words from an ancient homily penetrate your heart and fill you with awe. When you’re done reading, you can come back to this pithy post if you have time.
Do you have time for both? No? Get out of here and go read.
You do have time? Hi there! It’s lovely to chat again.
“There is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness.” Those words from the opening of that Second Reading are what make Holy Saturday so beautiful. Yesterday, we entered the noise and chaos of the sinful world that murdered its own Messiah. Today, that noise is replaced by a deep liturgical silence. The entire universe holds its breath as twilight nears and glory approaches. Glory approaches, but has not yet arrived. This is Holy Saturday: The increasing tension between victory and triumph, the flutter of the wind about to pull back the final page, the joyous dirge.
And isn’t this where most of us spend the majority of our lives? We’re no longer on Calvary at the height of our suffering. But we’re certainly not in Easter either. In some ways, the hush of Saturday is worse than the wail of Friday. At least on Good Friday, it’s obvious that you’re racked with sorrow. Holy Saturday brings a quiet anguish as you find yourself still reeling from the pain of Friday but without knowledge of when that pain will be healed.
I see Holy Saturday quite differently after being in lockdown last year. Last spring, we lived in the world that the apostles knew on Holy Saturday, a world separated from His presence. For months, we couldn’t feel Christ’s healing touch in the Eucharist or hear His tender words in the Confessional. I still remember how jarring the empty tabernacle used to be on Good Friday. In 2020, it was normal.
But my parish put their tabernacle in the window adjacent to the church parking lot. I would drive to that parking lot and get as close to the window as I could. I would genuflect on the cold muddy ground and find peace before the red candle that assured me of His Body’s presence even though I couldn’t see or receive Him.
Because nothing else was really going on in my life, I went almost every day. Every time a new piece of news re-shattered my heart and brain, I would go to the window and tell Jesus about it. I would go and feel the hot tears on my cheeks that expressed how desperately I wanted to receive Him and how desperately I wanted the pandemic to end. I would stare at the tabernacle for as long as I could and then drive away desperately praying, “Don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me.”
He never did. He never has. Just as Christ spent Holy Saturday descending into Hell and leading the righteous into Paradise, He was using that time to draw me into a deeper love for the Eucharist and also for the body of Christ right in front of me, my family. And one day, I drove in for parking lot Adoration only to find the Tabernacle missing. It was missing because our parish was finally able to celebrate Mass once more. He was not there, for the Church had risen. That first Mass was the most beautiful one in my entire life.
Today is Holy Saturday. You can’t demand that the sun change its location and make it a different day. You can’t go into the past and change what has led you into this season of seemingly endless suffering. But while you can’t choose the calendar date, you can choose how to suffer. You can choose to be consumed by fear and by self-pity, hating the stagnant waters you wade in. Or you can choose to remember that Christ Himself promised to rise on the third day. You can remember that beneath these waters, the Lion of Judah’s paw is stirring a whirlpool as His roar wakes the dead and sends such a shudder through Satan that it forever undoes him.
And if that seems too good to be true, that’s ok. You can still be afraid. You can still be weak. As Mary Magdalen prepares to walk to the tomb, she’s not preparing to meet her risen Lord. She’s preparing to anoint a corpse. But she’s walking towards Jesus rather than keeping to herself. And that is the key to holiness. So long as we walk forward, Jericho will come crashing down.