So we have now arrived at the point in our Lent/Easter journey that I have always found difficult and confusing. Holy Week is a special time of prayer and contemplation culminating, this year as much as ever, in the thought-provoking and touching liturgies of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
And then we have Saturday!
There is a temptation to treat this as a bit of a ‘day off’ between the sombre mood of Good Friday and the joy of Easter, but I have always felt that this is actually one of the most fundamentally difficult parts of the Passion story.
This is the day on which Jesus is dead!
Whilst I was training for ordination, I attended a residential training during Holy Week ending after a sunrise (literally!) service on Easter morning so that we could all be home with our families for the main Easter morning celebrations. With a few others, I was asked to prepare a service for Holy Saturday morning, but we really struggled to decide how, if at all, one can worship and praise on this most ambiguous of days.
Let’s think about it – very briefly. If the Crucifixion means anything then it is essential that Jesus died – not figuratively or partially, but literally and completely. If Jesus (wholly human and wholly divine) was dead, where does that leave our trinitarian understanding of God? I can only conclude that, over this period between Christ’s death on the cross and his joyous Resurrection, the Godhead must have been deeply effected or even damaged. If we, as Christians, pray “In the power of the Holy Spirit, and in union with Christ” (Church of England: Common Worship) where does it leave us if Christ is dead?
I appreciate that we are, of course, post-Easter people and that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) but, for any of us for whom symbolism and/or remembrance (anamnesis) are important parts of our spirituality, we relive year by year this divine conundrum.
So I will continue to do my Saturday morning shopping trip today. I will, in one sense, take this ‘day off’ before the celebrations tomorrow. But I will also, as always, spend the day feeling slightly troubled and incomplete as I grieve the death of my Lord, my Friend and my Brother.
May he rest in peace, and RISE IN GLORY!