Growing up, I treated Holy Saturday as an early start to Easter. It may not have been the actual celebration of Easter, but I breathed a sigh of relief for making it through the sorrow and fasting of Good Friday and looked towards the rejoicing we would do after Easter Vigil.
Now, looking back, I realize that my understanding and reverence of Holy Saturday was lacking as a child. I did not embrace it as a day of watching and praying for the coming of our Lord, and I would not until I read the words of a Lenten audience by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
“Walking Toward Easter”
In this audience he spoke of the sorrow that fills Good Friday, but also of its reminder that, through the Cross, Christ brings us victory and hope. A hope which is nourished through the silence of Holy Saturday, our expectation rising in anticipation of Jesus’ rising from the dead. On this day when decorations are taken down from our churches and no special liturgies are held, we have the opportunity to keep vigil with Mary. In sorrow, yes, but also in trust and hope of His Resurrection. The words that reoriented my Holy Saturday were Benedict’s words:
It is rightly recommended that a prayerful atmosphere be preserved throughout the day, favorable for meditation and reconciliation…The recollection and silence of Holy Saturday will usher us into the night of the solemn Easter Vigil, ‘mother of all vigils’, when the hymn of joy in Christ’s resurrection will burst forth in all the churches and communities…Thus we shall enter into the atmosphere of Easter.
Through an intense living of the Holy Triduum, we open ourselves up to a much deeper experience of its grace. After reading Benedict’s words, I regretted looking past so many unique and beautiful opportunities all the previous Holy Saturdays offered me. From then on, I wanted to walk through Holy Saturday with Mary. I wanted to use the day to be more mindful of Benedict’s words, that “We are still awaiting Easter; we are not still standing in the full light, but walking toward it in full trust.” Something we are called to not only on Holy Saturday, but everyday.
“Light, Water, and the Alleluia”
Benedict speaks of the three symbols during Easter Vigil: light, water, and the Alleluia. Through Jesus’ Resurrection, He brings light to the darkness. “God said: Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).
The Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday is the day in which we get to experience this transformation from darkness to light. As candle by candle, the Church is brightened with the glow of soft flames flickering in the air. Little lights that were sparked from the Paschal candle, and that together, make the entire Church aglow. A light that we as Church are called to carry out into the world.
The second symbol is water, which holds two meanings. It represents the purification we receive through the water of Baptism as we are reborn and made new in Christ. It not only symbolizes our new birth, but also the graces we receive through the Sacrament to be a living water for others. We are called, as Benedict says, “always to be sources of pure, fresh water, bubbling up from the fountain of his truth and love”!
The third and final symbol that Benedict speaks of is the alleluia. A word which we will sing out with joy on Easter’s arrival. “Speech is no longer adequate. He has to sing.” A song which is meant to be shared with all those around us and kept not only to ourselves. The first place that we hear about people singing in the Bible comes after the Israelites passed through the Red Sea, as they passed through slavery to freedom. We repeat their song of praise during the Easter Vigil liturgy, “I will sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot he has cast into the sea” (Exodus 15:1).
Living in Hope
Holy Saturday is a time of being in between great darkness and beautiful light. As Claire Dwyer writes in This Present Paradise, darkness in the spiritual life is like “spending Holy Saturday in a tomb with a hidden Christ who is breaking thousands of years of bondage.”
Yet through our baptism, death has been stripped away and we are set free. Christ lives within us. As Benedict says, “the great explosion of the Resurrection has seized us in Baptism so as to draw us on.”
If we receive the grace given to us and allow ourselves to be directed by the Holy Spirit, all that we do can take part in transforming the world to a place secure in the warmth of His love. With this confidence, we have a hope we can live in.
What has Jesus set you free of this pat Lent? What is He drawing you on to in the coming Easter season?
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