Day of Waiting

Holy Saturday.

This is perhaps the strangest of days in the liturgical year.   The Catholic Churches are empty.  Jesus is absent from the tabernacles.  There’s no Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  The only liturgy that is celebrated – the liturgy of the hours – even speaks of this strangeness.

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. (From the Office of Readings; An Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday)

As I prayed the rosary this morning, I hesitated to do the usual Saturday mysteries – the Joyful.  What was fitting for this strange day?

Then I realized that the Joyful Mysteries were the perfect mysteries for this day of waiting, this day of silence.  As the Blessed Mother sat in silence, her heart still bleeding from the events of yesterday, surely she meditated on those joyful mysteries as well.

Her heart had been pierced again and again. But now she waited in the silence for her Son to come back to her.  Surely she knew; surely they had spoken.  Her grief and anguish on Friday were like none other-

All you who pass by… Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow…

-but there was also the knowledge of the Resurrection, the confidence that her Son would only be in the grave but a short while, and would cheat death before the end of the third day.

And so she sat and waited.  Surely her thoughts and prayers went back to the events that brought her to this moment… the Annunciation… the Visitation… the night she gave birth to this little boy…  that prophecy of Simeon, foretelling the anguish that she could not even imagine as she held that little boy in her arms… the grief in the Temple of those three days of loss, a mere taste of the sorrow felt today.  Surely those mysteries, those memories which she kept in her heart, were the fruit of her meditation today.

We join her in this day of waiting.  We know the end of the story, we know the glory of the Resurrection. But we enter into the silence, into this day in between the grief of Friday and the joy of Sunday.  We wait until night, when the darkness will be shattered by the glory of the Lord, when death will be trampled by Love.

This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night
that even now throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.

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