For many years I have found Holy Saturday, [the day after Good Friday] particularly difficult. After the long climb through Lent into Holy Week, with its escalating sense of impending danger and calamity, by the end of the services on Good Friday I simply want to be on my own, in silence, to address my distress and sense of being utterly bereft.. This is not the time to rush forward in my reflections, thinking, “But it’s alright really. See, Easter with all that that means, will be here in two days.” Many great thinkers in the Christian tradition have made it clear that you cannot really celebrate the enormity of the resurrection, if you have not entered as best you can into the depths of the darkness of Good Friday, and the emptiness of Holy Saturday.
And there will be a way in which many people, both within the church community and those who do not normally go to church, will be feeling as if they are in a permanent Holy Saturday right now. The world has come crashing down around our ears; we have come face to face with our own frailty, our inability to control every major challenge which arises in life. We who had become so self-sufficient, so sure that we could provide the medicine for every ailment, have discovered that we are limited, human and mortal. We feel we can no longer look forward to a bright future, when each succeeding generation lives in greater comfort and enjoys the consequences of technological advancement. Now we even have to face the horror of dying alone, with no family or friends around us to support us on our journey into the life beyond the grave.
But wait; we are not the first to do that. Above all, we are reminded on Good Friday that Jesus himself was deserted by his closest friends, and, more appallingly, felt that his Father had forsaken him. Was ever such a terrible cry heard from the lips of a dying man? “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We may feel that at the moment the world is forsaken by God; his creation seems to be running amok, and we fear what the future may bring.
However, the truth cannot be denied that this is Easter Sunday. Out of that dreadful piercing agony of Good Friday God brought an answer which was so far beyond any human expectations that it took quite a while for the truth to dawn on the disciples and other faithful followers of Jesus. We are told that God, after his original act of creation, rested on the seventh day, the first “Sabbath.” So on Holy Saturday we move into another Sabbath as Jesus rests in the tomb. But on the next day, Easter Day, we have God’s act of RE-creation.
With the appearance of light on the first Easter Sunday, that light which God created first, “in the beginning”, it becomes apparent that God has been at work so that our understanding of life, and of death, are changed beyond imagining. His creative and loving presence has not disappeared simply because we were unable to perceive it. The previous understanding of the disciples of what had occurred on Good Friday suffers a radical reversal. Instead of life leading to death, and that is the end, they learn that out of that particular death of Jesus has come new life, and new hope.
Their world was altered irrevocably from one of hopelessness and despair into one of overwhelming joy and the knowledge of the continuing presence of God and his Son in their lives, so that as St Paul said later, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life .. nor things present, nor things to come… nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We too have suffered a major earthquake in our world view. Family life, social responsibility, priorities for government spending have all been shaken to the core. As we begin to look towards a slow period of recovery we will need to pray for our nation, our leaders and ourselves that we don’t lose sight of that new recognition of what is important in life; that our priorities won’t go back to “Business as usual” but will become more those in line with the attitudes, virtues and vision we associate with living in the Kingdom of God.
During those increasingly darkened days of Lent, there was always light to be seen, because even in the more sombre seasons of the church’s year each Sunday is seen as a “Little Easter.” Members of churches have been lighting candles in their windows on Sunday evenings as a sign of that hope and knowledge that, even in our darkest hour, God is with us. So yes, today we can proclaim loud and long, “Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!”