Holy Silent Saturday: Until Fire and Light Pierces the Darkness
We can almost forget the holy significance of this day, Holy Saturday, as we go about Easter preparations and live our ordinary lives. For the bereaved, the day after we experience the death of a deeply loved one is truly profound. The often lengthy dying itself has been so difficult to witness, yet also there is a moment of peace at the very last. When Pastor Judy Beaumont breathed her last she exhaled with almost a cough and a gut level brief sound that caused her beloved sister, Jill and I to respond with love,relief, wonder and awe. As her spirit went to God she also shared it with us, her last breath falling like holy mist upon us. And then we saw the precious peace she now had. Good Friday had been long and hard. It would be a while before we could have that peace about losing her. First, in our holy Saturdays however many there may be, we would mourn and miss her everywhere. Yet the peace on her face was perhaps something like the peace that Jesus felt when he said “It is Finished”-with the meaning “I have accomplished it all!” And peace with the cessation of suffering.
The Saturday after Good Friday,we sense the difference on every level of our beings. No matter the belief in resurrection we experience the finality of death to us. For the faithful on this Saturday, we almost want to forget that Jesus lies in the grave as his loved ones weep and mourn. While he did tell them that he would rise in three days it must have been hard to believe after witnessing the horrors of Good Friday. And what could it mean? It had never happened before. They, and we as well, have no real understanding of what rising from the dead means. So, on holy Saturdays we are simply bereft.
The church recognizes the day on this Saturday as a day of mourning and contemplation. There are no Masses or church celebrations during the day. It can be a very long day. My friend Kathy Roddy told me that she keeps it as a day of holy silence. Many do the same as they meditate on the life and death of Christ and its meanings in our own lives. I hope you can have some of that silence today. Some add music like Pachelbel’s canon or Faure’s Requiem or favorite hymns or spirituals to deepen and texture the silence. But others may add noise to deafen the silence and rush ahead to Easter joy. That is a temptation, even for me. But this year silence is more welcome and more possible for me. God is there.
Saturday evening slowly approaches when we will meet in community and share the Easter Vigil. In the Roman church and others as well there is a particularly dramatic beginning to the Mass/Service. New fire is created outside of the church. It pierces the darkness as we look on. The priest lights a candle from this fire and proceeds to the altar where the Easter Candle is blessed and made ready for this new church year. Members of the congregation each hold a candle that is lit by the Easter Candle. We are all bathed in light-the light of Christ. We welcome the risen Christ into our midst in a holy and deeply joyful moment.
The candles are then extinguished and the electric lights come on as we listen to “salvation history/herstory” in many readings. The first is from Genesis 1:1-2:2 where God creates all and says “it is very good!”. We pray “Come, Lord Jesus, send us your Spirit,and renew the face of the earth”. With the reading from Ezekiel (36:16-28 we sing “Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God”. We herald the Gospel , this year from Mark 16:1-7, With joyful Alleluias.
In the Gospel we are returned to the darkness of the tomb as we follow Mary of Magdala, Salome and Mary the mother of James inside. The huge stone has been rolled away. They can’t believe their eyes as the tomb is empty. A young man in radiant white is sitting there and tells them: He is not here, he is risen”. They run away in a host of feelings including downright fear. But, they certainly tell the others as the word of his resurrection spread like wildfire down the centuries to reach even us today. Alleluia!
After the homily there is the liturgy of Baptism and Confirmation for those catechists, those who have studied and are being received into the church. My cousin Jackie recalls the beautiful night that happened. She did not need to receive baptism as we were baptized together many years before, but the whole night was one of receiving the light of Christ into her life.
Below are some pictures of a few of those we baptized at Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community on Easter and near it. In the last last two pictures Confirmation follows for the baptized.
The Congregation is also sprinkled with the water of Baptism as they renew their baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil. We sing “Come, o come, come to the river flowing from the body of Christ. We’ll go down deep in the water, but in the Lord we shall arise”. AMEN!
And after receiving the living Christ in the Holy Communion of the Eucharist we join in singing:
“Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleuluia”!
We are through the darkness, we are in the light, Alleluia!
Love and blessings this Holy Saturday,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP