Everything was dead.
There wasn’t much grass nor many weeds or flowers, just gravel and dirt, abandoned buildings and silence. Death hung in the air so heavily it could engulf you. The pain, the torture, the intensity, the heroism, the death. Lives that once were and now are in the eternal. So many innocents just gone. The air was cool and the sky gray. Everything seemed to stop as we set foot in Auschwitz.
In college, a catechetics professor once told our class that, when teaching, from Good Friday through Holy Saturday we must feel the dread of no hope. We must enter into what it is to not have the presence of God. He is dead and in the tomb. Walking the paths and the buildings of Auschwitz on Holy Saturday 2005 felt just like that.
That was the second time in just a matter of a month or so that I had visited Auschwitz.
This time I was brave enough to go inside the crematorium. I placed my hands on the walls where people clung to their last breaths. I felt the terror and the doom. “Arbeit macht frei”– work makes you free– the iron gate beckons visitors and once, prisoners. But all work brought these people was death. It harkens back to the very beginning, to when the serpent told Adam and Eve that they would not die if they ate the apple. No, they would not spiritually die but they would physically die.
On Holy Saturday the world is still.
Though we live, we live in hiding and anticipation. Will He actually come back as He says He will? Is this salvation for me? Will I yet see my salvation and the power of my Savior? We hold our breath and wait for God to judge us. That is what the Passion is, after all. Christ pays our debt on the cross but by rising He makes us worthy of eternal reward. We do nothing to earn this but exist. And so, on Holy Saturday, we wait.
Image courtesy of https://www.maxpixel.net/Museum-Security-Auschwitz-Architecture-Poland-2423531