I was reading about a man who suddenly lost his faith. He said he, “…woke up to discover that God had died during the night. It was a weird sensation, a terrifying absence beyond anything I had ever experienced before. God was gone – just like that, overnight. I waited, to see if I was mistaken. Weeks. Months. But no. God was dead. At first I just felt numb. But as the realization finally sank in, I felt utterly lost and alone,” (Valusek, Jay, “Can There Be Spiritual Direction Without God?” in Presence, Vol. 20 No. 4 Dec. 2014).
In my head I thought: How does this happen? God is never absent from us. It is us that turn away from God, not the other way around. But this man is convinced God is dead. How did he get to that place of completely losing hope? It occurred to me that this was how Jesus’ friends felt today. Holy Saturday. Jesus is dead. It is terrifying. Gone – just like that. It must have been numbing. They must have felt lost and alone. There was no hope. Some hid. Some ran away. Everything had gone out the window because Jesus had left them.
But what was happening with Jesus? They laid him in the tomb, all bound up and rolled the stone over the hole. He was in complete darkness, alone except for maybe a few spiders or a mouse. It was in the dark aloneness that hope-filled amazement happened! It’s still a bit of a mystery how exactly it all worked, but Jesus rose from death. Jesus conquered it. All we know is the stone was rolled back in the morning and Jesus wasn’t there. Life came in the darkness.
Eventually, Jesus showed himself to his friends, his disciples, in the light of day. The risen Christ made all things new again. I am hopeful that the man who lost his faith might find that God was not dead. It is hard to hold on to that when in the dark, when we are in that terrified, numbing, lost and alone state. May Christ come into all of our dark places and give us hope-filled amazement. Let us wait in hope for the coming of the Lord.
Triduum means “three days”: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. But I’m going to be a rebel and talk about the forgotten day in the middle…Holy Saturday.
Holy Saturday is this awkward, in-between time. A not-knowing time, where everything just sits and you just don’t know what’s going to happen next. Some people fear the worst, some people hope for the best. Fear often creeps in. We often turn inward and go to that dark, hellish place. We’ve all had our Holy Saturday moments. Maybe we are waiting for test results, or a friend to come out of surgery. Maybe we applied for a job, or college. Maybe we are just in the rut of life, and don’t know where we are headed. Holy Saturday is unfinished and uncomfortable.
Traditionally, Holy Saturday is considered the day that Jesus descended into hell. You know how we say in the Apostles’ Creed, “…suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified; died and was buried. He descended into hell, the third day he rose again from the dead,”. You would think hell would be where Jesus could not be. But he goes there anyway. Jesus does not want us to be alone, even in our sin. Even if we let fear creep in and we try to shut our Lord out, he runs into the depths to find us. This is how Jesus enters into our lives. Jesus comes to be with us in our Holy Saturday moments, so we can rise with him on Easter.
Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar expanded on the insecurity of Holy Saturday. He begins with the emptiness of it all. “Everything that was, was a dream dreamt by no one. The present is all past. The future is nothing. The hand has disappeared from the clock’s face. No more struggle between love and hate, between life and death. Both have been equalized, and love’s emptying out has become the emptiness of hell.” But then as the day progresses, “Quiet, quiet! Hold the breath of your thoughts! It’s still much too early in the day to think of hope. The seed is still much too weak to start whispering about love. But look there: it is indeed moving, a weak, viscous flow. It’s still much too early to speak of a wellspring.” And then finally, hope dawns. “High-vaulted triumphal Gate of Life! Armored in gold, armies of graces stream out of you with fiery lances. Deep-dug Fountain of Life! Wave upon wave gushes out of you inexhaustible, ever-flowing, billows of water and blood baptizing the heathen hearts, comforting the yearning souls, rushing over the deserts of guilt, enriching over-abundantly, overflowing every heart that receives it, far surpassing every desire.”
As you walk through the Triduum, may you hold on to that hope which will spring forth. When you face the challenge of Holy Saturday, be at peace and turn to the Lord. He will go down into your desolation and fear, and He will raise you up with Him.