Holy Saturday and Prayer
Today is Holy Saturday. An important day in the Christian calendar. The day between Good Friday and Easter Day. That holy space between death and resurrection. The space between desolation and life.
My reading in the book of Lamentations, still despairing over the destruction of the Holy City, Jerusalem, has these words, addressed to God:
You have wrapped yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through. Lamentations 3 verse 44
But even in the midst of this despair, we read just a few verses later:
I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit;
You heard my plea …
You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!
You have taken up my cause, O Lord, you have redeemed my life. (Lamentations 3 verses 55-58)
Somehow in the life of faith of the Old Testament saints is a recognition that even in a time of loss and grief, when God seems to be absent, the only thing to do is to pray. Prayer is all that is left. It’s a paradox. We see no hope, and yet, in spite of that, we hope. These passages are a deep well of resources for the person of faith.
Walter Brueggemann puts it like this:
“Faith is the capacity to hold both honest reality and open possibility”
I wonder if Jesus’ disciples were able to draw on those resources after the crucifixion. I wonder what hope, if any, they were able to find ?
Holy Saturday and Rest
In the Jewish faith Saturday is the seventh day of the week. The Jewish Sabbath. A day of rest. It starts on Friday night and lasts until Saturday night. This recalls God’s work of creation, where each of the acts of creation ends with these words:
And there was evening and there was morning, the first (second etc) day. Genesis Chapter 1
The Sabbath day of rest mirrors God’s own rest at the end of the work of creation:
On the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
(Genesis 2 verses 2 & 3)
This Sabbath day, Holy Saturday, is also the culmination of God’s work. As God rests at the end of the work of creation, so now another work is finished. Jesus’ dying words on the cross are ‘It is finished’
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
(John 19 verse 30)
It is at the cross where Jesus finishes his work to be with us in solidarity until the very end.
So this day is a day when we wait. Nothing happens on Holy Saturday. It’s a day for quiet contemplation. Until the celebrations that begin to signal the resurrection, there are no services. Everything stops.
It’s a day when we might recall those aspects of our lives where, like the writer of lamentations, we hold those two ancient prayers together. The prayer of absolute despair and the prayer of hope in the face of no hope.
You have wrapped yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through.
I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea … you came near when I called on you;
In some mysterious way, the hope doesn’t deny the state that we are in, and yet the reality of that despair cannot stop us from praying.
Grace and Peace.