The Silence of Holy Saturday

The Silence of Holy Saturday March 31, 2018


Today, in its quiet way, is the most terrible day.

Today is the day of darkness and silence, all across the world.

We have killed God and buried Him, and now what?


A whole day of silence.

We don’t know what to do with that.

If I’d written this story, it would be different. Perhaps He’d never have died in the first place, or perhaps He’d pop up right away like a Jack-in-the-box. But He does’t. He stays dead for far longer than makes sense, and leaves us in silence.

Silence is the most difficult thing to bear.

We always want to rush to fill it. We want noise, hymns, applause, an organ solo– something.  Something to concentrate on. Something to do with our voices and our minds. Not this. Not a void. Not a lack. Not a space between assignments. We want things to happen, not to wait for something to happen. We want something to do, not to wait to be told what to do.

But Christ leaves us waiting in silence.

The lull is almost worse than the trauma of Good Friday. This is the Moment of terrible suspense. We watched the dreadful Paschal sacrifice, the fulfillment of every covenant. We try to have faith that He will return, but who can truly believe such an impossibility? And what will it look like? Something undead? Something alien, not a human at all, a different kind of ghost? Will He come stumbling out of the grave like Lazarus, still smelling of death and bound up in a shroud, and will His enemies immediately conspire to kill Him a second time?

We are creatures who have always walked in darkness, and now is the instant of gray-green sky before Dawn. But what is dawn? Is it like anything we have known? Is it like the dark we were used to? Is it more of this terrible gray?

We are sojourners who have always traveled through a desert, and now we come to the shallowest of streams, the smallest tributary of the River. But what is a river? Is it like the desert? Is it like this rocky, muddy stream bed? What can we do with that? What good is it? Will we always be thirsty?

We are beggars who have always been hungry, always subsided on cold scraps. Today, for the first time, someone has taken us inside and told us to wait at the table, for them to bring out a feast. We can feel the warmth and the steam coming from the next room. We can smell food we’ve never dreamed of. Our stomachs awaken with stronger hunger pangs than we’ve ever known. We know the feast is coming. But what is a feast? What does it mean to be satisfied instead of hungry? We have never felt this before. Will it hurt?

The most terrible thing is that the gray-green, and the worthless shallow stream, and the anticipation of a feast should go on for much longer, but here we are. The anticipation goes on all day.

We enter the church and find it silent and dark.

We wait.

We hear it begin outside. “Christ yesterday, today, tomorrow.”  But what is tomorrow? Yesterday was dark and silent and so is today. I have never seen a tomorrow. I don’t know what “tomorrow” means.

And then we see it with our own eyes, a single pinpoint of flickering light. “Christ our light! Thanks be to God!” But what is light? Is this the answer to all our petitions? A single orange dot in the back of the church?

And then the suspense is over and the church is filled with light and music, and we sing our Alleluias because Christ is risen from the dead.

First, we wait in darkness and terrible silence, the silence of Holy Saturday.

(image via Pixabay) 

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