I come from good Baptist stock, and as such we weren’t particularly mindful of the tradition of the church calendar year when I was growing up. I don’t recall ever hearing the term Advent until my teens. We did, of course, celebrate Christmas, but it was a single day, not the traditional 12-day feast, and there certainly was never mention of a season called Epiphany. Lent I knew. That was something that Catholics did—erroneously. However we did observe a truncated Holy Week, which included Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

I distinctly remember the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday as a strange day. We had no tradition for it, but it just didn’t seem right to entertain a typical Saturday. Because after a solemn Good Friday service—always a communal reflection on the staggering cost to Christ in order to free us from the devastation of ancestral sin and our willful, though ultimately helpless, collusion with it—Saturday seemed to be suspended in time, sort-of floating in limbo; a time between times. The world seemed hushed to me, eerily quiet. I remember wanting to walk around as quietly as I could as if trying not to wake someone up.

Of course, the instinct to be hushed was right, because Holy Saturday is traditionally understood to commemorate the Great Sabbath rest when Christ lay in repose, harkening back to the ancient story of creation when, on the seventh day, God rested because there was simply nothing left to be done. Except in this case, there is no joy in the rest. There is no deep satisfaction in good work done. Instead, there is utter, devastating and irrecoverable loss. The unthinkable has happened and cannot be undone.

I remember wondering what it would have been like to be a friend of Jesus, to have experienced his vigour, his newness and the wild hope he would have aroused for a long awaited promise to be fulfilled. And then to experience his grim suffering and death, and to have no idea that the astonishing Resurrection life was about to break into history and inaugurate the new creation, eternal and ever-green. The anguish must have been crushing.

John Henry Fuseli, Silence, 1799-1801, Oil on canvas

 

But of course we do know that Easter Sunday is coming, which is why the Church traditionally held a solemn service (not unlike a funeral) on Saturday morning, and then a light-filled, joyful vigil on Saturday evening when new converts would be baptized, and the faithful would renew their baptismal vows in preparation for receiving the coming Christ whose resurrected life obliterates the nighttime of our death, and brings about the splendorous dawning of the first day of the new creation.

It has been said that the most likely place to witness a resurrection is in a graveyard. The resurrection of Jesus, signalling God’s future rushing towards us in our present, is indeed upon us.  And so, it is equally appropriate to offer a song of light and hope on this day as it is to offer a song of darkness and despair. But for now, to simply wait in stillness and in hope, feeling both the gravity and the joyful anticipation of this day, is worth a few hours of our time. For indeed, this is a mystery we seek to understand with all of our mind, with all of our heart, and with all of our strength.

The following song was written for another occasion, but I think it works well here:

 

 

WAIT ALONE IN STILLNESS (Psalm 62)
by Steve Bell
from the 2016 album Where the Good Way Lies

On God alone my soul in stillness waits
The glory and the joy of my salvation
The rock on which all form of fury breaks
My stronghold so that I will not be shaken

Wait alone in stillness oh my soul
Wait alone in stillness, wait along oh my soul
The steadfast love of God be all my strength
My refuge…
My hope…
My elation

The enemies of love in vain rehearse
A plot to undermine the hope of nations
With tongues they bless, but with their hearts they curse
And lie in wait to bait love’s termination

Wait alone in stillness oh my soul
Wait alone in stillness, wait along oh my soul
The steadfast love of God be all our strength
Our refuge…
Our hope…
Our elation

We children of the earth are but a breath
On the scales we are lighter than a feather
I believe, and I have heard it said
All power belongs to God, altogether

Wait alone in stillness oh my soul
Wait alone in stillness, wait along oh my soul
The steadfast love of God be all our strength
Our refuge…
Our hope…
Our elation

 

 

 

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