Mainline Protestant Channel
Living through Holy Saturday
To me, Holy Saturday is one of most important moments of Holy Week. Sure, I love the Palm Sunday Hosannas and rejoice each Easter with the emergence of Resurrection Life. But Holy Saturday speaks most directly to the daily reality of our lives. After the shock of death or words that bring despair (such as "cancer," "divorce," "terminal," "sorry, but we have to eliminate your position"), we have to begin living with the "what next?" as we enter the void of unknowing.
Most of us live, from time to time, in Holy Saturday. We experience the jubilation of Easter and the stark pain of Good Friday, but those are immediate and momentary. Holy Saturday is the time in between death and resurrection, fear and hope, pain and comfort. Holy Saturday is the valley of grief and uncertainty, for us and for Jesus' first disciples.
On Holy Saturday, we don't know what the future will bring. We don't know if the cancer can be cured or if we will love again or find the position that fulfills our vocation. As I write this, I am in a professional Holy Saturday, after being released from my seminary position due to "restructuring." I am exploring possibilities and going to interviews, but the results aren't yet in. At times, I ask myself: Will I ever have the chance to be a seminary leader again or do ministry that reflects my gifts and passions? While I am an affirmative and hopeful thinker, in some ways, the jury's out. Like the women and men on that first Holy Saturday, I live with an uncertain future.
It is difficult for us to experience Holy Saturday during Holy Week. After all, we've read the story; we know that there's a happy ending—resurrection and new life! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! If you're a pastor, you may already have finished your Easter sermon by Thursday or Friday, and have prepared yourself to share Good News! This luxury wasn't available to Jesus' first followers. All they had was the hope that somehow their Teacher and Savior would live on in their hearts and imaginations.
But, we can still share the journey of the first Christians. We can take a few hours on Friday evening to re-read the Good Friday scriptures. We can, if our family situation permits, take a mini-retreat on Holy Saturday, spending time in prayer and reflection. You might, in the interplay of silence, scripture, and journaling, consider the following as questions for spiritual reflection:
- What is open and uncertain in my life?
- Where am I grieving? What losses am I living with?
- What are my "what next" questions?
- How am I living with uncertainty?
- Where am I experiencing God in the interim time?
Perhaps, put yourself in the shoes of one of the first disciples on Holy Saturday—Peter, Thomas, Mary of Magdala, Mary or Martha of Bethany, Jesus' mother Mary. Visualize yourself as one of them: see your life situation in light of the cross, feel your loss at Jesus' hideous death, feel your sense of uncertainty, feel the unknown that lies before you. Let your imagination burst forth in possibilities.
Take time to pray your uncertainties, lifting them up to God for comfort and guidance, knowing God is with us in the wilderness.
Life is often a time of Holy Saturdays with no resurrection in sight. Like the "valley of the shadow" of Psalm 23, we can train our senses and heart and mind to experience God's Spirit in the darkest valleys. We can gain sympathy for those persons who are struggling as we face our own Holy Saturday struggles. While our resurrections are uncertain—our successes still in suspense—we can listen for God's voice of companionship, care, and counsel as we live the uncertainty of Holy Saturday.
Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, pastor, and author of twenty one books, including Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living, and The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for lectures, workshops, and retreats.