A reflection for Holy Saturday, April 16, 2022 by the Rt. Rev. Frank S. Logue, Bishop of Georgia
Holy Saturday is a day easy to miss in the Church Year. Often the church building is bustling as the members of the altar and flower guilds replace the austerity of Good Friday, with the joy of Easter. And while that work is essential, it should not let us forget of the pain and tragedy of unimaginable loss experienced by the first followers of Jesus.
The women who traveled with Jesus and his disciples, some of whom assisted in financial support of his ministry had heard their cry out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In his humanity, Jesus felt abandoned on the cross. Then on Holy Saturday, the disciples filtered back to the Upper Room in Jerusalem where they had celebrated that last Passover. There would have been the stunned certainty of Jesus’ death. They had known he was the Messiah.
I need to be honest and say that though Jesus words, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” are so very true, every Christian can and will face times when you feel the absence of God. This is not because God has abandoned you, but because so much is weighing you down, that you can’t, in that moment, feel God’s presence in quite the same way.
I am reminded of the Anastasis, that great icon of Holy Saturday where Jesus has descended to the dead and is bringing Adam and Eve up from the grave. In iconography, the first two humans are buried there just East of Eden, which is also the foot of the cross. Christ’s glory is bound with his degradation in this place where worlds collide, the fallen and the redeemed. Jesus’ tomb will not be empty until Jesus empties Hell.
Jesus’ burial clothes are neatly folded, never to be needed again, even as Adam and Eve’s tombs are smashed and the Old Testament figures stand in awe. Shackles lie broken as Jesus tramples death under his feet. His followers are still locked away in fear, the women are waiting until closer to dawn to go to the tomb.
Holy Saturday offers the gift of hindsight, as we see how God was faithful when all seemed lost.
We humans have yet to do anything in response to Jesus’ death on the cross and God is already making all things new. God’s love is not dependent on us. God is not waiting for us to act in human history to redeem us.
A Holy Saturday faith matters as we need to be able to hold on to the love of God as found in Jesus when life unravels. I know this from sitting at the bedside of those dying in Hospice Care or more painfully standing by parents in the Emergency Room as their child’s life slips away.
Knowing we are held in God’s presence in the shadows of life is vital in times when dawn seems far away. Holy Saturday also reveals how vital Christian community is in such trials of faith. The first followers of Jesus got one another through that uncertain time from the cross to the empty tomb. In the same way, when any of us goes through times of doubt and feelings of abandonment, we need others to hold us in prayer and to be with us, not offering pat answers, but loving presence. This too is a gift. When you get to be the person sitting with someone in their grief or loss, the Holy Spirit will be with you, which will give you more strength for when the loss is your own.