Holy Saturday Reflections
Updated: Aug 6
Holy Saturday. What is this day?
If you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry. I didn’t grow up hearing about Holy Saturday. I really only remember Easter as being an important day. The other days of Holy Week that we celebrate: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday did not enter my regular vocabulary until a few years ago.
These days that I just mentioned have their own traditions depending on what stream of Christianity you’ve engaged with. Within churches where they have more traditional forms of worship (think pipe organs and hymnals), these days are of utmost importance in the Christian calendar. Palm Sunday is usually accompanied with real palm branches, Maundy Thursday is usually accompanied with communion or the Lord’s Supper (sometimes foot washing), and Good Friday is often a reflection on stations of the cross or the seven last words of Jesus. Easter, of course, is usually a big celebration no matter what stream of Christianity you partake in.
But what about this day? Holy Saturday?
It’s the day after Good Friday. Many churches end this service on a somber note, because Good Friday was a day of death and loss.
Leaving this day of sorrow, we don’t jump into Easter. We’re not launching ourselves into a moment of celebration. We have a pause.
I believe that this pause is essential. In the streams of Christianity in which I grew up, it was rare that I remember being encouraged to take a pause after loss. I remember hearing statements on Good Friday like, “Jesus may have died but we know the end of the story.”
But Holy Saturday invites us to suspend our knowledge of the end of the story. This day invites us to experience the moments after loss in their fullness. In life, death—whether it be physical, financial, spiritual, emotional, or otherwise—usually leaves us with that sense of loss for more than just a moment. Death has a sting that is powerful enough to shake us at our core. Something that existed no longer exists in the way that we knew it to exist.
Maybe it’s losing that job that you thought was secure. Maybe it’s losing your financial resources and being unsure how you’ll get back on your feet. Maybe it’s losing a friendship that you hoped would always be there. Or maybe it’s losing someone you love to physical death.
Holy Saturday teaches us that loss deserves a pause. It reminds us that we don’t have to jump from pain to celebration.
Holy Saturday actually invites us to grieve. It invites us to remember that something that we held is no longer in our grasp.
On this Holy Saturday in 2020, I believe that this invitation to grieve is incredibly important. In this global pandemic we have all lost something.
Some have lost a job. Others who were already unemployed have lost hope that they will find a job now. Some have lost loved ones and have not been able to commemorate their lives. Some have lost joy. Still others have lost the compassionate touch of another human.
Loss is all around us right now. Good Friday is happening over and over again right now. And Holy Saturday is inviting us to be present to these moments.
I also believe that Holy Saturday does not mean that we are only present to grief. Grief is complex and is a process. The invitation to pause assumes motion. We continue the best we can in the midst of loss.
And while we don’t know the other side of this story, we do know that things will not always be the way that they are today. Saturday will end. Sunday will come.
And Sunday is not just a repeat of Palm Sunday. It is a new reality. My hope in all of this is that as humans, we can recognize how connected we all are. And I pray that on the over side of our present reality, we have a transformed reality that does not seek to return to what was, but seeks to move forward into a more beautiful world. A world where we recognize the value of each life and that our actions have greater impact than we realized. This is, I believe, responding to Jesus’ prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Spirit who pauses with us on this Holy Saturday, would you give us the courage to pause today? Would you help us to hear the groans of your creation today? When we don’t know what to say or what to pray, would you remind us that you pray for us as one who sees us completely? Thank you for walking with us on this Holy Saturday. Amen.