For us today, Holy Saturday is a time of waiting, of expectation, of longing. For Mary, Mary Magdalene, the Twelve, and Jesus' other disciples, Holy Saturday was when time stood still. They had no expectation, no longing. They had only confusion and grief, disorientation and loss.
However, they also had hope. Their hope was a very different kind than ours. Their hope was that of Abraham's before offering his son, Isaac, as sacrifice. Their hope was that of Job when he had lost everything dear to him. Their hope was Daniel in the lion's den. Their hope was Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace. Their hope was the psalmist's in Psalm 22, which begins with "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me? (1) but ends with "Posterity shall serve him; men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, that he has wrought it" (30-31).
This is the hope that holds out despite the temptation to despair, despite all empirical evidence pointing against hope, because this hope is rooted in trust in God's love for us.
For those of us on this side of the Resurrection, our hope is that of those who have heard the witness of the triumph of Love over Death. The seventeenth-century Carmelite, Brother Lawrence, had a profound epiphany of God's caring for us that led him to a radical trust in that care:
That in the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit would appear, he received a high view of the providence and power of God, which has never since been effaced from his soul. That this view had perfectly set him loose from the world, and kindled in him such a love for God that he could not tell whether it had increased during the more than forty years he had lived since." (The Practice of the Presence of God with Spiritual Maxims, p. 15.)
It is because of the Resurrection that Brother Lawrence could see the return of Spring in terms of God's providence.
Perhaps those who loved Jesus and mourned his death remembered his words as Matthew tells us:
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? and why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lillies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day." (Mathew 6:25-34)
Through their hope, those who loved Jesus sought first the kingdom, although many no doubt wondered if that kingdom had been but a beautiful dream, a mirage, an illusion. Yet, they hoped anyway.
Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day. Let Holy Saturday be a time when we remember that heart-rending loss. However, let us also dwell in the luxury we have that they did not: we need not be anxious, because we know what tomorrow will bring: Life-giving Love.
I am a cradle Catholic who considered the priesthood for several years, then fell away from the Church and God altogether for many years, returning to find that I had little understanding of either the riches of the faith or the depth of God’s love and grace.