The strangest of days

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Today our God has died.  Tomorrow we wait.

There is much written about Good Friday, for obvious and good and holy reasons. But the past few years I have felt myself more and more drawn to Holy Saturday.  I have more books and fruit for meditation on Good Friday than I could get through in ten lifetimes.  But Holy Saturday is that in-between day when I don’t know what to do with myself.  I feel restless.

It is perhaps the strangest of days in the liturgical year. The Catholic Churches are empty.  Jesus is absent from the tabernacles.  There’s no Holy Sacrifice of the Mass until nightfall.  The only liturgy that is celebrated – the Liturgy of the Hours – even speaks of this strangeness.

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. (From the Office of Readings; An Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday)

As we wait, we wait in silence with the Blessed Mother.  The phrase that Luke repeats at the beginning of his Gospel- that Mary kept or pondered all things in her heart- most certainly could be repeated here.  As the Blessed Mother sat in silence, her heart still bleeding from the events of yesterday, surely she meditated the mysteries of the past thirty-three years.

Her heart had been pierced again and again. But now she waited in the silence for her Son to come back to her.  Surely she knew; surely they had spoken before the Passion.  Her grief and anguish on Friday were like none other- All you who pass by… Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow (Lam 1:12).  But there was also the knowledge of the Resurrection, the confidence that her Son would only be in the grave but a short while, and would cheat death before the end of the third day.

And so she sat and waited.  Surely her thoughts and prayers went back to the events that brought her to this moment… the Annunciation… the Visitation… the night she gave birth to this little boy… that prophecy of Simeon, foretelling the anguish that she could not even imagine as she held that little boy in her arms… the grief in the Temple of those three days of loss, a mere taste of the sorrow felt today. Surely those mysteries, those memories which she kept in her heart, were the fruit of her meditation today.

We join her in this day of waiting.  We know the end of the story, we know the glory of the Resurrection. But we enter into the silence, into this day in between the grief of Friday and the joy of Sunday.  We wait until night, when the darkness will be shattered by the glory of the Lord, when death will be trampled by Love.

This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night
that even now throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.

(From the Easter Exsultet)

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About the Author

Joannie Watson

Joan Watson was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, but college and graduate school took her to Virginia, Ohio, and Rome. After graduating from Christendom College with a B.A. in History and Franciscan University with a M.A. in Theology, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of the explosion of Catholic culture in the middle of the Bible Belt.

She has been blessed to work for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College. She is presently the Director of Adult Formation for the Diocese of Nashville. She also serves as the Associate Editor of Integrated Catholic Life.

When she’s not testing the culinary exploits of new restaurants or catching up on the latest BBC miniseries, she’s FaceTiming with her eight nephews and nieces and enjoying her role as coolest aunt. She likes gelato, bourbon, and the color orange.

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