Saturday in Holy Week – in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, it seems like just a placeholder. Why then does the Church call it Holy?
On the Friday we call Good, our Lord laid down his life for us; went to the Cross in love, and there took on all the weight of the world’s sin, and death too, all for us. He died. His heart was pierced by the centurion’s spear, and blood and water poured out. His lifeless body was taken down, covered in blood and sweat, cradled in his mother’s arms, and then, hastily, wrapped up and placed in the tomb.
And there in the tomb he lay.
Jesus had done his work on the Cross – redeeming the world that God had made and called good, but that we had broken; calling all humanity to him, his arms outstretched on the Cross to draw all to himself. In six days, God made all of creation; on the seventh day He rested. And the Son, having done his work on the Cross, rested too.
Jesus came to fulfill the law in his own person, and so he did; to the last. In the tomb, on Holy Saturday, he rested – kept the perfect Sabbath rest, kept the Sabbath as no one ever did or ever could except the Son of God himself. For the Son kept the Sabbath in the perfect rest of death; utter passivity, complete helplessness, resting with absolute and complete trust in his Father who would raise him on the third day.
And so our Lord is with us to the very end of all things.
A couple of years ago, my priest gave me a book of meditations on the theme of prayer and pain. One of the passages that moved me deeply asked the question: do you see yourself as a feather floating in the air, or a stone at the bottom of a pool? My immediate connection was to the stone – a pebble, lying at the bottom of the well. And as I meditated on that image, I realized that I did not have to stay there; that Christ could, and did, reach down into that pool and draw me out, into the light. It was a good image, a helpful one, a reminder that there is no place so dark that my Savior cannot find me.
And yet it was only this Lent that I realized that my understanding of Christ’s love was far short of the reality. For if I imagine myself as that stone in the pool, and Christ reaching in for me, he is still “out there” apart from me, a great distance between us.
This Holy Week, I have been reading Malcolm Guite’s Sonnets on the Stations of the Cross, and quite unexpectedly there I found the image that brought home far more vividly the reality of Christ’s love for me.
In Sonnet IX, meditating on Jesus’ third fall as he carries the cross, Guite writes of the darkest and deepest fall of all, the fall into depression, where “there seems no rising and no will / To rise, or breathe or bear your own heart beat.” In that dark place, where there is no strength to hope – where there is not even strength enough to desire strength to carry on – despair is right there, deadly and desirable at the same time: “And you could almost wish for that defeat”...
For it turns out that Jesus is not reaching down to help us from a place outside of our pain. He is here beside us. Beside me.
He knows what it is to be helpless, for he lay helpless in the tomb, that Holy Saturday. He knows what it is to trust entirely and absolutely to another, for so he trusted himself to the Father. He has been there; he knows the way.
In that place of loneliness, I find that I am not alone; there is no need to wait for him to reach out, for he is already here with me. I may have no strength to reach up, no will to cry out, but I do not need to, for