Today is Holy Saturday, also called the Great Sabbath, Black Saturday, Easter Eve, Joyous Saturday, and the Saturday of Light.
Yesterday, Jesus was arrested, put on trial, and crucified. The day before, he reminded us to love and serve one another.
Today, Jesus’ body lies dead in the tomb. Today, as God left Jesus alone in Gethsemane, He leaves alone His disciples. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary wait, sitting against the Sepulchre. Even those who do not count themselves His friends remember that he promised to return, and set a watch to ensure nobody disturbs His repose.
Today is a day of mourning, yes, but also a day to rest with Christ as on the sabbath, a day to anticipate His return together.
Today Thou dost keep holy the seventh day,
Which Thou has blessed of old by resting from Thy works.
Thou bringest all things into being and Thou makest all things new,
Observing the Sabbath rest, my Saviour, and restoring strength.fn1
As God rested and made the sabbath to seal the creation, so Christ rests and makes a sabbath to complete the atonement – confirming the purpose of that creation.
Today is the last day of Lent, of holding back our Glorias and Alleluias. For the last forty (non-sabbath) days, we have fasted and wept. We have tried to walk the path of the Saviour in the desert, and refuse temptation as he did, and inevitably we have failed. And then, as the sun rises again on Sunday, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, and with him, our hope for salvation from failure, pain, sickness, sorrow and death.
This mingling of sorrow and hope is familiar to us, as we contemplate our imperfection and seek the power and comfort of the atonement. It’s not yet time for rejoicing; we need this time of waiting to allow ourselves to accept the offered gift – to see both our need for it, and how freely it is offered. On Good Friday we grieve, and on Easter Sunday we celebrate. Today is when, as in most of life, we live between the two, and on our better days, consecrate both as offerings to the Saviour of us all.
I bless us all that as the world is reborn with Christ, so will we all be: made alive with His peace and life, and filled with His power and His love. May our attempts to reproduce that love, in our failure, draw us to him, and may our successes bring His love to others.
fn1 – Matins Canon of Holy and Great Saturday, Ode 4