Calendars are powerful pages; they have a capacity to give names and meaning to days even if everyone does not share those names and meanings with you. Holy Saturday is one of those days with a little known name, and a meaning knowingly shared by very few. But once people hear what some of us find in this day, it becomes more familiar and even useful.
For those who keep track of life according to a Western Liturgical calendar, Holy Saturday is that day after Jesus dies. This quiet, empty day is at odds with the energy of Easter Egg Hunts and shopping mall frenzy. (I know this because I went to the mall.) This is the power of a calendar; even when other folks may be oriented to egg hunts and new shoes, it is still possible to overlay this other meaning on top of , and/ or along side of the other one. There is room for both.
(This calendrical alchemy is part of the great joy of living in a “postmodern” era; some how, even if we don’t know how, we manage to forge these amazing hybrids out of what was with what is and with what might be.)
My sense of Holy Saturday was born from many Holy Saturdays at Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Seattle, where for many years we sang in an Evensong Choir which became transformed into a Choir for the Three Days at this time of year. The liturgy for Holy Saturday, according to the ways of the Episcopal Church, and as we observed it at Trinity is very brief, yet some how while colored with grief, is also beautiful in a comforting way.
The Church is empty of “holy stuff” on this day; the altar was stripped after the worship of Maundy Thursday. There are no colors for this day, beyond black. There are no candles and we did not use the organ…rather more simple instruments of flute, voice.
If someone you love has died and you remember the day after that death, that memory may attach itself to Holy Saturday. This day-after becomes an emptiness that is some how full of memories of someone who is not here, who is gone and yet is also here. The emptiness of this day is filled with longing for and glimpses of what has been lost.
To me, it feels like a violation– a matter of not fitting this time and space– to fill this emptiness with “stuff ” because the “stuff” blocks out the tenderness of the waiting and hope.
The joy and noise of the Easter Celebration as they occur in the Easter Vigil — with the lighting of a fire in the darkness, followed by shouts of “Christ is Risen!” , “The Lord is risen, in deed!” –are welcome after this day of emptiness and waiting.
The next day, the day of Resurrection, when the world is transformed again with memories and visions of new fire and new life and, the new shoes seem to fit better. Today the world is beautifully empty, open, and waiting for hope and love.