We are deep in the sacred and holy days of Christ's Passion. These days are a roller coaster of emotions, prayers, tears, and finally, wonder and joy, when we see the light of Easter dawning. On Thursday we washed each other's feet, as Christ did for the first disciples. Today, Good Friday, we gather at the foot of the cross where he is condemned and dies. Saturday afternoon we will smile and enjoy the sounds of happy children hunting for colorful, sweet-filled Easter eggs; and then we will light the New Fire at the Easter Vigil (7 pm) as we enter the dark church, hear afresh our story as God's people, renew our baptismal promises with those who will be baptized, and celebrate the first Eucharist of Easter. It is a solemn and introspective journey with a glorious destination -- Easter Resurrection. I look forward to greeting you these days and to sharing it all with you.
In the midst of all the worship services, Holy Saturday is easily missed. The noise of the crowds on Good Friday, shouting "Crucify him" are gone. The tomb has been sealed, and Jesus' friends and followers believe it is all over. He is dead, betrayed by those he loved. It is a still and silent morning on that Saturday, I imagine, as they wake to the reality that their beloved friend, teacher, and Lord is dead and buried. Hope has gone with him to the tomb.
The book of Lamentations was written in response to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of its people to Babylon. Hope was lost; a future could not be imagined. Here is the lectionary text for Holy Saturday from Lamentations, and we can see why its sense of hopelessness and desolation are an apt choice for this day.
Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24
I am one who has seen affliction
under the rod of God's wrath;
he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
against me alone he turns his hand,
again and again, all day long.
He has made my flesh and my skin waste away,
and broken my bones;
he has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation;
he has made me sit in darkness
like the dead of long ago.
He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
he has put heavy chains on me;
though I call and cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer;
he has blocked my ways with hewn stones,
he has made my paths crooked.
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
"The Lord is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in him."
There is a glimmer of hope, however, in the midst of the poet's despair, which is also where we hang our hope on Holy Saturday. "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning." We look to the new morning on Easter Day, when we see God's steadfast love for us in the Risen Lord.