This year Holy Saturday came earlier…and is lasting longer

Struck from the List, Klee

This year Holy Saturday came earlier…and is lasting longer

At Christian Century, Richard Lischer wonders, in these days of Covid-19, if we’ve been transported to Holy Saturday. Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, is the day the disciples withdrew and wondered and waited.

But for what? They had no idea.

Nor do we.

The Gospels say little about the disciples’ behavior on Holy Saturday. We can only imagine. It was a day of rest. They were required to rest. What preparations the women made must have been done furtively.

In the world of the coronavirus, we are also waiting. But waiting for what? When the women came to the tomb in the gray morning, they came not with high hopes but with their world’s version of embalming fluid. In Hebrew, the verbs “wait” and “hope” can be rendered by the same word. But in a time of contagion, our waiting does not appear to be en­riched by hope any more than theirs was.

Our waiting has an intransitive feel. “For what?” is hard to answer. For it to be over. For those who are sick to recover. For a magically resurrected economy. For school to start and the multiplex to open. For baseball. For a paycheck once again. Waiting to get back to where we were—which for many of us wasn’t a good place to begin with. The people who clean hotel rooms, who work at Macy’s or the shop down the block, whose husbands or wives have died and remain unburied, who live in prisons, who are hoping for a bed in the ICU—what are they waiting for?

But waiting, like hoping, demands an object. We are waiting for a solution to the inexplicable. We are waiting for deliverance from our vulnerability to nature, of course—and from death—but even more from our vulnerability to the self-interest, lying, hoarding, and venality that make the pandemic even worse. Which is to say, we want to be delivered from ourselves.

An unwelcome Sabbath.

Nothing we could do to fix things anyway.

We hide. We are sad. We are anxious. We’re confused.

Things have changed, maybe forever.

More questions than answers.

What will tomorrow bring?

23 thoughts on “This year Holy Saturday came earlier…and is lasting longer

  1. I am from Pittsburgh and my daughter’s fiancé is from Butler (his family has a farm up there). So I am assuming the folks in your household are Steelers fans.


  2. My husband’s from Butler, 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, so it’s ‘home’ for his people.
    We live in another state.

    I saw this on a newscast and it was pretty shocking . . . . we are in strange times now.


  3. Lamentably, they didn’t come, not even from my own communion. My communion above all appreciates the status quo. Usually, that is a good thing, but I don’t think this is a time for business as usual.

    The Church is severely hobbled by her disunity. In her testimony towards the rest of the world, she is not able to speak with a single voice. I believe that the Orthodox Church contains the fullness of the Christian tradition, but it is not pluriform in the way it was when the West was joined to her. Something is missing. Not something essential that would make her defective and incomplete, but something that would keep her from displaying her full glory.

    As usual, Fr Stephen Freeman has addressed this issue far better than I ever could. I like the statement he made that ‘Orthodoxy has no need of systematic theology, because Orthodoxy is what theology looks like when you live it.”


  4. Interesting stuff, Mule.

    –> “The changes we desperately need at this juncture will have to come from a change in [the] Church.”

    Do you think those came and/or do you think it turned out we desperately needed them at that juncture?


  5. My goodness, this is powerful. I love how the quote ended with: “Which is to say, we want to be delivered from ourselves.”

    I just wrote these words today:

    In this most challenging time, we are faced with the fact that we aren’t invincible. Of course, we “know” this in our heads. But we can so easily live—especially in the west—as if nothing can touch us. Some individuals may not, but we as a general society live this way. Will we take time to reconsider (repent)?

    We need to


  6. Ditto. That last paragraph is money. Check that…. it is as good as gold. I will recommend that to my dad who is in basic lockdown in his retirement community, to see if he can suggest all the residents do that from their balconies or windows once a day.


  7. “There is great glory to the Lord in a quiet, confident walk in a day of adversity, a day of dread, when things about us are shaking and trembling”. Quoted by Miles Stanford in his green letter, Preparation. I have searched and believe the quote may be by JD Pentecost. At any rate Stanford is famous for “resting in Him”. A good reminder on any Sabbath, unwelcome or otherwise.


  8. I like your last paragraph. Relationships or even simple acknowledgement from a friendly face is as essential as food and water. It is great that in times of crisis we can think outside the box to get those things met.


  9. About 10 years ago, when I was awash in the throes of worrying about Peak Oil, I posted an essay on my blog entitled “Preparing For the Coming Global Lent”.

    Peak Oil is still an issue, and everything Damaris and the Archdruid say about it is roughly true, and we still have climate change to deal with even if the coronavirus sends us back to 1915 technologically, but I did not expect to be a prophet:

    The changes we desperately need at this juncture will have to come from a change in [the] Church. There are a lot of conflicting voices out there, and most of them are clamoring for a preservation of the status quo, with which voices I certainly sympathize, because it is comfortable for me.

    But I don’t know whether that will be a option for us very much longer. As our Lord put it

    A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.

    It’s always like that; we’re comfortable, and then we begin to feel constriction and the pressure, until suddenly light and cold burst in on us, and we are thrust into a larger world.


  10. “Have we, as a society, forgotten the common good, and worshiped the economy? Do we need to learn new ways to care for each other, realizing that all of our lives are inextricably bound together and interdependent?”

    About 30 months ago Marge & I moved to a complex of duplex style apartments for people retirement age, 55 and up. The section I live in is arranged around a semi-circle of three duplexes, for six apartments. There are others also across the street and the neighborhood. Many of the people are now widows or widowers, like me. I have three widows living to my right and one across the back lawn in another duplex. Many spouses, when they are still alive, are ill with one condition or another. The lady behind me was the wife of a deceased Lutheran pastor who was with the local Lutheran church for many years.

    This is a very caring community. I’ve had soup, cookies, banana nut cake, and other goodies delivered to my door almost since I moved in. Two couples across the way were originally from Kentucky or West Virginia and in the past have given me candy that their church makes to sell — fudge mostly.

    Yesterday we started a new practice that will hopefully continue and perhaps expand. At 7 pm we all went out to our front entrances, waved at each other, and in loud enough voices greeted one another. My new dog, Buster, went out with me. This will hopefully be a good way to stay in touch, check on each other, and pass good words back and forth. Simple, but very encouraging and uplifting.


  11. Hopefully part of what we’re waiting for is to learn the lessons this pandemic is teaching us about who we are as individuals and as a society. Have we, as individuals, become too dependent on constant novelty, on convenience, on entertainment and distractions? Had we, before this crisis, forgotten the value of human connection? Have we, as a society, forgotten the common good, and worshiped the economy? Do we need to learn new ways to care for each other, realizing that all of our lives are inextricably bound together and interdependent?

    In the same way that the cross “made a spectacle” of the powers of this world, putting all their cruelty and violence and insecurity on display, this crisis is showing each of us for what we are: both the good and the bad. On Holy Saturday, according to church tradition, Jesus was not just resting: he was battering down the doors of hell, binding Satan, and liberating captives. Maybe we too are being called both to battle the evil in ourselves and our society and to bring liberation and freedom to others.


  12. For those of us who have to continue to work in essential industries, it does not feel like Saturday, even Holy Saturday, at all. For at least eight hours a day, five days a week, we are not quarantined in any sense, and our work demands and situations frequently make it impossible to practice social distancing, since many of us do work that requires close physical proximity to others. We continue with our daily activities, our normal rounds. We go out every day aware that we may be exposed to the virus, and worse yet, bring it home to our loved ones. My coworker’s wife is a NICU respiratory therapist at a major local hospital; she has worked outside her specialty, with coronavirus patients. Who knows if that will mean exposure for me and others I work with? In one sense we do wait our own Holy Saturday: we wait to see when and if we will be exposed. The psychological pressure, the fear is enormous, palpable among those we work with, and sometimes staggering.


  13. It is my choice to remain positive as I can while being as informed as I can. How much better am I than a person during the black plague times? That the country I live in can withstand the terrible psychological , economic and social havoc this virus has created in remarkable. What are we waiting for, we are waiting for this disruptive, terrible, unseen threat to our world to pass and it will pass. Basically , it seems to me the way to stop the spread is do what we are doing, isolate and distance. Their will be some medicines that will be effective for treatment and within a year a vaccine. The economic disadvantaged have not been forgotten during this period and the working class is being aided as best the government can and that is a good thing. People have come together and the test is still being given to see if we can continue to hang in there together. The people who work hard behind the curtains who drive the supplies, who do all the real work enable me to stay at home and lament my minor discomforts, how petty I am but I am truly humbled and grateful.
    There will be time to find out many things but right now we must continue to follow the “rules” for at least another month. I appreciate what Susan stated in her last few sentences, great summation, great attitude during a personal trying time. Glad I can come here and read all the different views. Still listening to CM great sermon from Sunday that resonated so well in my heart and who does not like a wonderful 16 minute great sermon with great music? What a blessing. I am elderly, according to the officials, I am at some risk health wise and I am not too bright so thank God I married a good woman. Not a platitude but I do have hope based on faith. So let us all be as positive as we can, we all are in a different boat in economic and social ways but I like to think we (believers) are all on the ark waiting for land fall. God Bless us all and he has.


  14. Thank you Chaplain Mike for all your assistance to us out here in this uncertain world.
    Your Sunday prayers plus hymns gave us a face to relate to leading us all in our rambling comments.
    You are doing a great job. All Australian churches are closed too.

    We had our first death in our town today. 39 confirmed cases in our area.
    I find it hard to compare when I read the statistics for US in the news.
    I have a local supermarket which deliver groceries to the elderly and disabled. Also they offer other bits and pieces which aren’t groceries.
    Two days until delivery. So good. Saves me driving, parking, hobbling to the store, pushing trolley and loading and unloading. Such a help. I had a very tall Sikh in a red turban bring my delivery last week. May he be blessed.
    My son in UK waited 2 weeks for his grocery delivery from his local store. They are well but physically isolating, home schooling the children. My daughter is a registered nurse in a big city in Aust and is wondering when or if she might be called to attend to their covid19 patients.. Nursing Home is locked to visitors and I haven’t seen John for 17 days. I am told he is well.
    I feel almost apologetic telling of my good fortune. I wish it was easier for you all.
    I pray for us all each day. Wouldn’t miss a post and comments.
    Stay safe,



  15. Long, long line of cars for miles waiting to get to the food bank near Pittsburgh . . . distopian scene, yes


  16. Good post. Well, good in that it causes me some reflection. Thanks for your leadership and guidance here at iMonk, CM. Much appreciated.


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