Christ is in the tomb. This year we feel it and we know it in a particular way. We miss Jesus. We want to go back to Mass. We want to meet Jesus again in His sacraments.
Sometimes we wonder at the Apostles’ behavior after the crucifixion: they ran, they hid, they were scared, they were confused.
But how could that be? Jesus had told them this would happen. Did they not listen? Did they not believe him? He also told them that He would rise in three days. Were they not paying attention?
When we give their behavior a little more thought, it is less confusing. Of course they were afraid that they would be crucified next, right?
And their fear of what might happen sheds light on our own behavior, as well.
As Christians, were we not given promises, as well? Didn’t Jesus tell us He would be with us until the end of time? Didn’t He promise His faithfulness to us and to the Church?
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
We know Jesus told us these things and so much more! And yet, when our crosses come to us we tend to act like the Apostles: confused, frightened, and sad.
Jesus is in the tomb, and rather than waiting confidently for the resurrection, we can give in to loneliness, aggressive self-reliance, or doubt.
Holy Saturday isn’t just a day to get through so that we can get to Easter. It is a beautiful opportunity to recognize Jesus’ sacrifice and to confidently prepare for His resurrection. It is a chance to ponder what life would have been like without Him—what life would be like without a savior.
Jesus is in the tomb. If you are feeling like a scared disciple, you can challenge yourself to joyfully and confidently believe in Jesus’ promises: you can prepare for the resurrection.
Conversely, if you struggle to focus on the “reason for the season,” you can make a concerted effort to center your thoughts and actions around the solemnity of this time.
Here are some simple ways to fully and confidently participate in Holy Saturday.
1. Encourage a reflective, quiet atmosphere at home.
If you read our Good Friday post, you know that we recommended keeping a certain amount of silence during the day.
Well, now we are commemorating Jesus' time in the tomb, and it’s still a great practice to turn off music and noisy distractions. The absence of background noise alerts us to the fact that something is missing—Jesus is in the tomb. We are waiting for Him!
However, this is a hopeful silence, a silence pregnant with expectation and joy! Jesus rises tomorrow and we know it! We believe it.
2. Get the house ready for Easter.
In our house, we wash windows and curtains, vacuum and mop, bake and cook.
We find all the flowers we can and put them in vases all over the house. We make the house as beautiful as possible. The whole family gets involved!
If we can, we open the windows and let the breeze in. We have to get our house ready for the King because we know He is coming very soon!
3. Read a meditation and make time for mental prayer.
Don’t get so caught up in Easter preparations that you forget to make time for prayer.
Set aside time for prayer, spiritual reading, meditation, and quiet conversation with God and His Mother.
4. Go to confession, if possible.
If confession is not available, make a devout Act of Contrition.
Just like we prepare our house for the celebration of His resurrection, we ought to prepare for His resurrection in our souls!
5. Read aloud an ancient, powerful Holy Saturday homily.
The Church treasures a heart-rending homily that is very ancient. It was incorporated into the Liturgy of the Hours.
It would be beautiful to read this aloud to the entire family on Holy Saturday. You might be surprised at how even younger kids grasp some of the meaning—kids are usually much more capable than people think they are!
As you read this, take your time with it. There is no need to rush. Let your imagination paint vivid pictures of the homilist's words.
An Ancient Homily From Holy Saturday
Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives, Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.
For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.
We're Almost There!
Easter is about to arrive. The Vigil will soon be here.
Cultivate a joyful expectation. No matter how uncertain our future or surroundings, we can rejoice in the God who has conquered all.
In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world.
O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?...But thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
—1 Corinthians 15:55, 57