Sunday Readings: here.
“Something strange is happening- there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness.” This sentence is the first line of an ancient homily given on Holy Saturday that is still used in the prayers of priests and religious for Holy Saturday. It is good for us now, even as we celebrate Easter Sunday to reflect on the day that Holy Saturday is, so that we can appreciate even more fully what we celebrate as we move through this Easter day that follows it. On Holy Saturday, like no other day, we are called to reflect on what it means to live between the already and the not-yet, between “Christ has died” and “Christ is Risen,” without yet knowing or even hoping that Christ is going to rise. How do we live when everything that makes sense to us disappears, when everything we know is turned upside down? What do we do, when friends and loved ones die, when we are broken, and when God seems so far away and there seems as though we are left with nothing but to sit in silence and contemplate that brokenness? Do we do as Judas, who killed himself in great sorrow and despair, or do we do as Mary Magdalen who set out in her great sorrow to visit the grave of Jesus and witness the Resurrection? That is the question of Holy Saturday.
And yet what we also realize when we reflect on Holy Saturday, which is the ultimate “day after the day before,” is the very fact that we never ever really have to experience what the apostles experienced, what Mary experienced, what Judas experienced, and what Mary Magdalene experienced. It is in fact impossible for us to do so. Why? Because we can never experience what was experienced on that first Holy Saturday. Our experience is that when all seemed lost, when all was lost, God restored to us the Savior we thought was defeated and conquered. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb of Jesus and found that it was empty; that the stone had been rolled away. We can and must reflect on the “something strange” that was happening on that first Holy Saturday in tandem with what happened on the first Easter Sunday if we are ever to appreciate what that strange happening was and is.
That reflection will form the basis of our discussion over the next few weeks of this Easter Season. What we propose is that one way of looking at the “something strange” that has happened and is ever happening is that we are continually being invited into eternity, hence the title of this Easter series, “Invited Into Eternity.”
That’s what God has been doing since He created the first human beings; it’s why He sent His only Son; it’s why out of obedience to Him His only Son suffered and died on the cross, for us; it’s why there is a Holy Saturday; and it’s why the Father raised the Son on Easter Sunday, to invite us into eternal life with Him. Our first challenge to accepting this invitation is to believe so that we might see. It was wonderful that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb after what must have been an unbelievably painful Holy Saturday, but she was not yet able to believe. The same is true of Peter as well. Although they both saw the burial cloths still there, and the cloth that covered His head rolled up in a separate place, they were not able to “see” what John saw because they did not yet believe. John saw and believed the unbelievable and the unimaginable. God has invited us to eternal life. He has invited us to a life of complete freedom with Him, a life in which nothing can shackle us, not even time. It means that He has invited us to live a life of the very best kind, a life with Him. Of course this means that if we are invited to a life with Him, it also means that we can choose eternal life without Him; we can choose a life, or rather an existence, of the very worst kind. That first Holy Saturday was but a shadow of what existence without Jesus would be like. What we need to do when we experience the Holy Saturdays of our life is to rise once again, like Mary Magdalene on the new day and go to the tomb anyway, and like John the Apostle, receive the grace to believe that we are invited into an eternal life of the very best kind.
- Rev. Joseph Maloney, Pastor of St. Aloysius Parish, Pottstown, PA.