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, or 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, when 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, so to become the first born of the new creation. Jesus had, still fully human and fully divine, entered into 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.
We may be experiencing darkness, the feeling of being alone, betrayed, afraid, or not understood. We may be dealing with conflicts, tribulations, tragic news, or addictions to such an extent that we do not even know how to pray or what to pray. In these moments of darkness and feeling separated, overwhelmed, know that we are not alone. The one who conquered death on this day in the tomb is present with us. We just need to remember to call upon his name, “Jesus.” If that is all we can say or pray, then just keep repeating his name.
Even the threat of death no longer has power over us, for Jesus, whose name we invoke, conquered death in the tomb. 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, fulfillment in this life and on into eternity into the next. In calling on the name of Jesus, moment by moment, we are transformed by the Love of the Holy Spirit that brought Jesus back from utter God forsakenness.
No matter how dark it may appear, there is a light that shines in the darkness, and the dark cannot or will not overcome it. Let us trust in Jesus this Holy Saturday, allow ourselves to be loved and healed by his tender mercy and care, so to enter the Easter Season as it begins tonight with the Easter Vigil more committed to love as he has loved us.
Image of the Shroud of Turin accessed online