In the quietude of Holy Saturday, shortly before midnight, I find myself standing on my back deck and looking out into the twinkling lights of houses and roads. The celebrated agony of last week is over, both physical and mental. Soon the sun will crest the horizon, church bells will peal and the Good News will be spread.
My upbringing gave me an appreciation for solemn things. Raised Catholic, I kept the entirety of the Paschal season, including the full forty days of Lent. I was taught to reflect upon the events; I believe that I became a more empathic (sympathetic) person for it.
Good Friday, the Veneration of the Cross, marked the intense end of a whirlwind Jerusalem Tour. “They are killing him today,” I would think when I was smaller, and I would spend the day in quiet bereavement.
Holy Saturday. This was the one day of the year that brought me the greatest wretchedness as a child. Reared in a theatre family, I always thought of Holy Saturday as the day God went Dark. It was the one day of the year that God wasn’t turning His face to look at man, according to my child’s mind. It saddened me, especially if it rained on that day.
I can distinctly recollect crawling into bed after a very long Easter vigil. I was still at St. Rose, and probably no older than seven. The moon shone through my bedroom window and I turned my eyes toward the heavens (because everyone knows that is where God lives) and I felt a profound sense of loss. If I was this sad, then surely God was “upstairs” crying over the death, too. So, in true innocent form, I offered God my best sympathies for the death of Jesus.
“It’s okay, God. You come back again tomorrow. Don’t cry.”
I began attending sunrise services in my late teens. It seemed fitting. Mary headed down the darkened roads on her way to tend to Christ’s body. In the early morning light, while all the world was just starting to get busy, Mary came upon what she thought to be a gardener near the tomb. The story is well known. I needn’t repeat it here.
Easter Sunday is bitter-sweet to me. Yes, “Jesus rose”, and all of Christendom rejoices… for a day, perhaps even two. Then it seems as if everyone goes back to their lives. Disaster averted. Panic over. Been there, done that. Christ walked the earth forty days after the resurrection. The New Testament records chronicle a few key events and end with his Ascension into Heaven. And then that’s that.
Eastertide, like Christmastide, becomes a memory shortly after it is celebrated. The children and grandchildren have binged through their sugary hoards. The adults have put away their Easter outfits and put on their grindstone mantle. People tuck away all the “Easter bible stories” much as they stash the plastic decorations and gaily-colored baskets in the attic. They may glance upon them during the rest of the year, if they happen to be in that part of the attic.
Christians seem to have lost sight of the Passion of Christ (and I don’t mean the movie, although I do get a chuckle when I recall how horrorstruck many Protestants were over the “gruesomeness” depicted therein. Goodness, did they honestly believe that the death was no harsher than an Easter parade on a balmy afternoon?)
I was in a debate recently and my (apparently unarmed) opponent was a self-declared “OSASBABBTC” (translated: Once Saved, Always Saved Born Again, Bible-Believing True Christian). We were discussing the importance of the Last Supper and the symbolic act of communion.
He used the advantage to rant about “pagan papal Catholic demonists speaking demonic Latin” and his ire grew to epic proportions when I softly pointed out that Jesus Himself stated, “As often as you do these things, do them in memory of me”. His response to me was, “YOU don’t know Jesus!”
I wonder if he knows Jesus. I don’t mean the “made in our image God suit” that many people use to form God in their minds. I certainly don’t mean the parroted words typed in red font found in every bible. Nor do I mean Paul’s teachings to the early churches.
Does this man really know Christ and all that He endured? Has he ever taken time out of his hectic “born again” life to contemplate Jesus? Does he feel the pregnant and heavy weight of Holy Saturday bearing down upon him tonight?
I certainly do not place myself as being higher in the Salvation Station than my debate opponent. I’m not. I don’t spout bible verses. I don’t wear a cross or crucifix. I avoid labels such as “born again” and “true”, and refuse to identify with any single denomination. I seldom attend church services. I’m quiet in what I believe and in how I believe, and there are days where I wonder if what I believe is actually to be believed or not.
God will probably take one look at my sorry carcass and punt me straight into hell. Still, I’m the one standing on my deck and reassuring God (and myself) that he’ll be back tomorrow. It’s a weird relationship between Father and prodigal child.
I keep Eastertide in my heart, and heed every dreadful and every miraculous moment of it. And so I find myself once again contemplating Holy Saturday, and the promise of Easter Sunday. May each of my friends and their families experience the peace and hope of the season.
The photographs are from a meandering road in West Virginia. I took them Saturday afternoon as we were coming back from our friends' home.