Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday

It's a picture perfect peach of a day in Nelson. Holy Saturday is a good day to take stock, utilizing the peace and stillness made available in the mercy of God. A word which comes to mind is 'mystery'. The journey of Jesus to the cross is full of mystery. Why, for example, does our sin require this solution, rather than another? If the gospels and epistles give a strong sense that Jesus went to the cross because this was God's purpose, the mystery remains of what the specific human factors were which led to Jesus' arrest and then, given the weak nature of the charges brought against him, why the arrest was followed by execution.

But there is also the mystery of tomorrow, the Day of Resurrection. What actually happened on that first day of God's Resurrection? Each of the gospel accounts has striking differences from the others in the details, even though the broad outline (visitors early to the tomb, tomb empty, encounters with an angel or angels or Jesus) is similar. (Note, in the last sentence, that one cannot even say that all four gospels record an appearance of the Risen Lord to his disciples. Mark, notably, in 16:1-8 being deficient in this respect).

Yet the liturgical emptiness of this day (save for the possibility of celebrating an Easter Vigil this evening), which recognises that little happened on the day after Jesus died and was buried, is sobering. If nothing succeeded Jesus' death and burial, would anything remain of Jesus and his story, save for a line or two in the Talmud? Would not everyday for ever afterwards be a day in which nothing happens involving Jesus?

Something happened to upset the normal human script: someone dies, there is a ceremony of farewell, life goes on, but there will be talk, from time to time, of what X meant to us, what X would do or say were he/she with us now. Easter Day is the declaration that something did indeed happen to upset that script. A living Jesus is encountered by his desolate followers in such a manner that the day of discovery is thereafter celebrated; in fact, eventually, the Day of Resurrection changes the timetable of Christians: Sunday is the new Sabbath. Further, Christians live and act as though the risen Jesus lives in their midst everyday, not just on that one day of resurrection.

So, Holy Saturday is a taste of what life would be without the risen Jesus, even as it is also a foretaste of life with the risen Jesus.

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