What to do with Holy Saturday? It is one of those days in the Liturgical Year that divides Christians in my experience. For many, it is a day that doesn't really exist, such is their eagerness to rush from the foot of the cross on Good Friday straight to Easter morning's empty tomb. At best, it is an annoyance, and is best ignored. That was the tradition I grew up in: no need to be sad because we'd read to the end of the story and, we win!
In recent times, I've come to appreciate Holy Saturday more and more. Through pastoral ministry with the bereaved and in supporting victims of discrimination and abuse, the necessity of grief has come home to me. In facing disappointment and loss, the need to have space for sadness, anger, frustration and tears has been real. And so any comfort that seeks to minimise the loss or short-circuit grief serves only the needs of the comforter.
I have written elsewhere about Methodism's fixers, those who, when confronted with someone's disappointment or frustration, quickly move to suggest possible solutions. As well-intentioned as it might me, it also reveals a deep discomfort with pain of loss. Our unease with the expressions of hurt or anger leads us to try to fix things as quickly as possible, in order that our own discomfort is assuaged.
For me, part of the message of Holy Saturday is a call to dwell with the pain, anger, frustration and loss that the world feels. It asks us to reject the notion that, somehow, Easter 'fixes' Good Friday, resurrection nullifies crucifixion.
What if we sat with the pain and allowed ourselves to feel it too? What would it do to us and to our own expectations and theologies? If the desire to fix things is also about maintaining a picture of the Church or our communities as overwhelmingly benign, fair or just, then sitting with the hurt might open us to the need for real change. Might experiencing Holy Saturday allow some of the immense suffering of Good Friday to seep into our bones and souls to such an extent that it begins to burn within us and forces us to see what is really going on? Might it help us to see our own experiences of pain and hurt as things not to be done away with or hidden from view, but the fuel by which systems and societies are reshaped and transformed?
Holy Saturday encourages me to sit with my own feelings of hurt and frustration and those that others have shared with me, not because I am a masochist, but because they witness to the need for change. I am profoundly grateful to those who have shared their own experiences of hurt and rejection and the many others who have expressed their fears about how they might be treated in the future. It is only from the experience of Holy Saturday that the joy of resurrection can spring.
In these experiences, I find hope and continue to draw huge inspiration from the words of 2 Cor 4:8-11:
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.