The first Holy Saturday. Complete darkness, arid earth, no sound. The body remained as immobile as the stone he was placed upon by Joseph of Arimathea and those who attended to him: “Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb” (Mk 15:46).
How long did Jesus lay there, as cold as stone? What was he experiencing? Had he continued his descent to the agonizing depths of God forsakenness? Did he descend all the way to depths of hell as we recite in the Apostle’s Creed, to bring some sense of comfort to those who had rejected his Father, even to bring release to Adam and Eve, originators of the Fall, as the Church Fathers proclaimed?
At some point during Holy Saturday, in the greatest of darkness, all seemed lost. The stretch of separation from God the Father and God the Son reached its limit, the Love that exists between them, the eternal bond that always has and always will be, the Holy Spirit, called the Son back. The dead body on the slab, was not merely resuscitated as if in one great breath he returned to the living and was alive again. A piercing light shone in that dark tomb, Jesus was transformed beyond anything humanity had ever experienced before to become the first born of the new creation. Jesus had, still fully human and fully divine entered the fullness of death, conquered it and rose again in a transcending moment to experience a new reality, a different dimension than what we experience now in our three dimensional realm.
Not aware of any of what had transpired to Jesus in the dark tomb on Holy Saturday, “Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him” (Mk 16:1). In the rush to entomb Jesus before the Sabbath, he was not anointed for his burial. These three woman came to complete the task, and would be amazed at what and who they would find when they arrived. The stone was rolled away and upon entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here” (Mk 16:5-6).
Jesus is Risen! This is what we will celebrate at the Easter Vigil tonight. May we keep this day as a simple one, may we periodically give ourselves some time to be still, to be silent, to pray, and to embrace the wonder of the significance of what the resurrection means for our lives. Death no longer has its sting, we no longer have need to fear, no one can oppress us anymore, including ourselves. May we grasp the outstretched hand of the Risen One, our liberator, our Lord and Savior, and be willing to be led by him into his promise of freedom, wholeness, and fulfillment. May we experience and be transformed by his Love, and in following his way love others as he has loves us.
Image of the Shroud of Turin accessed online
Link for the Mass readings for Saturday, the Easter Vigil: