Holy Saturday. A day to mourn. A day to rejoice

Today, Holy Saturday, is a solemn day. 

It is a day for mourning. It is a day for grief. It is a day to process what just has happened.

Jesus is just hours into the grave. His blood still can be seen atop Golgotha, and on the hard wood of the cross. Our ears still ring with Mary’s cries, and the cold, metallic sound of the hammer on nails and flesh. We can still feel the weight of that stone being rolled in front of the waiting tomb in the garden.

For the disciples — for us — today is a day to sit in pained contemplation of what we’ve just witnessed, and what we’ve done — or failed to do. For Peter and those who fled from the garden at Jesus’ arrest, the sting of that fleeing, of our cowardice and betrayal, still weighs heavy on our hearts. As we tread these last hours of Holy Week, let us take close stock once again of ourselves and our lives, and search out those places and times when we have run from the cross. And let us mourn, as the disciples mourned.

This is a day to mourn the harsh, unrelenting treatment of Christ. It is a day for us to mourn how our world continues to treat our risen Lord. It is a day to reflect on his pain and suffering, undertaken for our sake, and to mourn the ways we’ve nailed Him, over and over, to that cross.

Today is a day to mourn. But, as with everything in Christianity, there is another side to this day. Holy Saturday is a day to mourn. But, it also is a day to rejoice, expectantly.

St. Luke tells us in Acts 2:24 that “God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.”

We know Jesus overcame death from the cross. And we know He conquered death for us, after the cross. But, what of this day?

In 1 Peter 3:18-20 Peter tells us Christ was at work on Holy Saturday, redeeming those who otherwise might not have known redemption: “He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey.”

Jesus faced death on Good Friday, as we all will face death in our bodies. But, while Jesus rested in death, Christ was busy — serving, loving and redeeming. He was redeeming the lost. And for all of us, who may be lost at times, that is reason to rejoice.

Reflecting on that passage from 1 Peter 2, St. Athanasius states unequivocally Holy Saturday was a day of holy work for Christ: “Christ’s body was laid in the sepulchre when He went to preach to those spirits who were in bondage, as Peter said.”

Even from the depths of the grave, Christ reaches out to us in boundless Love. This day, then, is not just a day of mourning. It also is a day of great rejoicing. Pain and joy. These two go together so frequently in the Way of Christ. 

Should we mourn today? Yes. But, we mourn with a sense of what is coming — of what is so much greater than what we’ve lost.

Before He went to the cross, Jesus reminded us, in John 12:24, the death of the body is only the beginning: “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

When the grain of wheat goes into the soil, it goes into darkness. It goes out of sight. It goes into quiet, desolate waiting. But, it is not wasted time. It is preparing itself. It is preparing to spring forth in new growth — into new life.

Today, we should mourn. But, let our mourning be the quiet, unseen growth of the grain of wheat. Let us go deep within ourselves, into that part of our soul where Christ always resides, to rest with Him, and to prepare for tomorrow.

For, today is not the end. And tomorrow is the beginning of another long, hard walk. But, in the grave or beyond it, in life or in death, we walk always with Christ beside us. With Christ within us.

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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