After the commemoration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, the church is engulfed in silence. The Eucharistic host is placed back in a tabernacle and remains there until the Easter Vigil on Saturday night. So, what do we to do in this coronavirus imposed silent HOLY SATURDAY that shuts us in the Upper Room of Fear and threatens to separate from each other
In many churches a custom was developed where a tomb was created to place a statue of Jesus’ dead corpse and the lay faithful were then encouraged to remain in prayer before the sorrowful tomb. For most of history there were few, if any, public liturgies before the Easter Vigil, leaving the church completely silent from Good Friday afternoon all the way until the late evening hours of Holy Saturday.
For many centuries there was even a strict fast on Holy Saturday, permitting no food to be eaten in observance of this painful day. Many would stay in the church throughout the night of Good Friday, keeping Jesus company in the tomb.
A homily from the 2nd century confirms this general atmosphere in the church,
“What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.”
One of the reasons for this “great silence” is to enter into the pain of Jesus’ death and the loss the apostles must have felt. Think about it for a minute.
While Jesus taught them continually about his resurrection, the apostles likely had some doubts, seeing the death of their master. They might have thought to themselves, “If he is the Messiah, why did he die? I thought he said he would rise from the dead?” In this way Holy Saturday is that day of doubt and sorrow, not knowing what to do or what to believe.
Even the Easter Vigil begins in silence, in the complete darkness of the church.
However, the good news is that Jesus, the light of the world, has truly risen and dispels the darkness and any doubts we may have had. The church erupts in pure joy at the Easter Vigil and music, bells and light lift up our hearts to God.
Only after experiencing the silence of Holy Saturday can we truly appreciate the loud and joyful celebrations of the Easter Vigil.
Every part of the Sacred Triduum has meaning, and when we are able to enter into it fully, our hearts are lifted up in a way that is difficult to describe.
Holy Saturday for me has always felt like watching a swan glide across a lake that is silent and still.
It is true there are no celebrations (aside from blessing an occasional Easter basket of food)
But just as the webbed feet of that graceful swan are furiously peddling beneath the surface… So too it is for us at St Patrick.
If you wandered into the Church on a Holy Saturday you might see Megan and Deacon Joe walking our RCIA folks through the Easter Vigil Ceremonies where they will be received
Diane preparing a mountain of linens and cleaning the precious chalices for use both in Church and Hall
Mark, Jim, Guillermo, or Genaro hanging off ladders performing death-defying maneuvers with over 90 feet of fabric, like a liturgical Flying Wallendas
Well you get the idea.
But this year, not so much.
There are no great preparations necessary.
And the locked doors of the Church echo the huge boulder that blocked the entrance to the Tomb.
But Easter cannot be stopped
Even if there is no fire, no torchlight procession.
The spark has been ignited,
Easter cannot be stopped.
Our world is in Holy Saturday mode. There is a silence as the roads are quiet and businesses are shuttered. But like the swan on the lake, that is deceptive.
Behind the walls and doors there is a frenzy of activity that mirrors the Holy Saturday belief that Christ entered hell to battle evil, to rescue Judas,
and to show that
LOVE IS STRONGER THAN DEATH
The battle against the pandemic is a battle of medicine. But beyond that it is folks armed with wisdom and courage and compassion. Folks who pour mind heart and body into service for others.
The world has stilled as if each day is a Silent Holy Saturday.
But the Sound of Silence can grow louder and louder
One voice added makes the difference.
The VOICE OF CHRIST HAS CHANGED
One voice clearing his/her throat
One voice taking a deep breath and preparing to shout out:
HE IS RISEN!!!!!!!!!
HE IS TRULY RISEN!!
AND THE WORLD THIS TIME MAYBE JUST HAS QUIETENED ITSELF LONG ENOUGH TO HEAR, TO BELIEVE AND TAKE NOTICE
May this Holy Saturday be a day of remembrance; bringing the names of those with whom we walk and work before the Lord. We can pray that they will receive that special touch - a gift of special grace - from the Lord Himself. It may come through a total stranger, someone else they know, or even - and especially - from us as they live in the quiet interval between lightning and thunder. When they encounter Him in all of his glory, how can help but be changed? On this day of stillness, pray - the sounds of silence.
So, this HOLY SATURDAY,
Breathe deep and be kind to yourself, bathe in the kindness and love of the FATHER,
and in the Promise of a Risen Christ.
Remember you are not alone.
You have a friend in Jesus and friends at St Patrick.