Holy Saturday 2020: God has been found among the dying and the dead

We sit down with tears
And call to you in your tomb
Rest gently, gently rest!
Rest, you exhausted limbs!
Your grave and tombstone
For our anguished conscience shall be
A pillow that gives peace and comfort
And the place where our souls find rest.
With the greatest content there our eyes will close in sleep.

English Translation by Francis Browne

• • •

However strange and shocking, would there be a Christian gospel were it not true that God has been found among the dying and the dead, where the absence of all life and hope and light proclaims that even God has gone away? Would there truly be forgiveness for the guilty, healing and wholeness for the broken, a home for the rejected, and a coming day of laughter for a world of tears, did God not know how to weep the tears of fear and loneliness, to endure the torments of hunger and disease, and to be identified with godforsakenness and transience?

Conversely, would there be a Christian gospel were it not true that God is self-unveiled only sub contrario, that is, in the very opposite of Godness, hidden amid the outcasts of the earth who, often in the name of God and of the church, are rejected and despised, and who, by the standards of the world, count for nothing except to live and die that the powerful might become more powerful still? The triumph of God over the grave of Jesus would truly be — as has all to often been assumed — permission for the followers of Jesus to flaunt their plumage of superiority in the face of others, were it not that God in humility ineffable has triumphed through the grave, for its many dis-graced, defeated victims and in the form of one of them. That form, first seen in a cradle, later on a cross, and finally as a corpse, is the shape of resurrection, and there is no other. Let others dream of divine salvation for the righteous and the wise, for those able to transcend the flesh and rise to heights of timelessness and sanctity; the gospel of Christ is for the mortal and the carnal, the earthbound and the sinner. For it was just as such a one that Jesus lived, and still as such a one, and in death, are God’s true power and life at work. It is to Christ’s all-too-human family, the fellowship of the weak, the guilty, and the moribund, that God’s gracious, loving hands stretch out; and only those prepared to suffer and to die in solidarity with Christ, acknowledging their own neediness and brokenness, truly know the sufficiency of grace and can witness to its healing.

• Alan E. Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday
(p. 90f)

25 thoughts on “Holy Saturday 2020: God has been found among the dying and the dead

  1. Not so sure Id want that preached in my church. It is the nature of each to respond to boiling water in a different way. So , adversity is a blessing if you’re a carrot , I guess. Sucks to be you, egg old buddy.

    Calvin himself wasn’t quite so deterministic. That response approaches Islamic levels of fatalism.


  2. Death and damnation began with my body still my own,
    began when I was ousted from my place,
    and many creatures still were left unnamed.
    Gone are some, now extinct and nameless,
    as though they had never been.
    In hades I feel their anxious breath, see their accusing eyes.
    My guilt is heavier than was the weight of flesh.
    I bear the waste of time spent in recriminations
    (“You should not have…” “But you told me…” “Nay, it was you who…”).
    And yet I knew my wife, and this was good.
    But all good turned to guilt. Our first-born
    killed his brother. Only Seth gave us no grief.
    I grew old, and was afraid; afraid to die, even knowing that death had come, and been endured when we
    were forced to leave our home, the one and only home a human man has ever known. The rest is exile.
    Death, when it came, was no more than a dim
    continuation of the exile. I was hardly less a shadow
    than I had been on earth, and centuries
    passed no more slowly than a single day.
    I was not prepared to be enfleshed again,
    reconciled, if not contented, with my shadow self.
    I had seen the birth of children with all its blood and pain
    and had no wish ever to be born again.

    The sound, when it came, was louder than thunder,
    louder than the falling of a mountain,
    louder than the tidal wave crashing down the city walls,
    stone splitting, falling, smashing.
    The light was brutal against my shaded eyes,
    blinding me with brilliance. I was thousands
    of years unaccustomed to the glory.
    Then came the wrench of bone where bone had long been dust.
    The shocking rise of dry bones, the burning fleshing,
    the surge of blood through artery and vein
    was pain as I had never known that pain could be.
    My anguished scream was silenced as my hand was held
    in a grip of such authority I could not even try to pull away.
    The crossed gates were trampled by his powerful feet
    and I was wrenched through the chasm
    as through the eye of the hurricane.
    And then – O God – He crushed me
    in his fierce embrace. Flesh entered flesh;
    bone, bone. Thus did I die, at last.
    Thus was I born.
    Two Adams became one.
    And in the glory Adam was.
    Nay, Adam is.

    -Madeleine L’Engle



  3. From Matins of Holy Saturday – which is usually served on Friday night. The church building is lit only by candlelight. We have just given the Lord a Christian burial, processing with a large icon of his body laid out after the deposition, with Joseph, Nicodemus and the women ready to prepare the body for burial, and the Lord’s Mother Mary, all grieving. No matter how well I hold up with having been transported across time to Jerusalem and having seen the crucifixion, this song we sing in mournful Russian harmony (though in a major key) always makes me cry:

    Come, let us bless Joseph of everlasting memory,
    who came to Pilate by night and begged for the life of all:
    “Give me this stranger, who has no place to lay his head.
    Give me this stranger, whom his evil disciple delivered to death.
    Give me this stranger, whom his mother saw hanging on the cross,
    and with a mother’s sorrow she cried, weeping: ‘Woe is me, my child!
    Woe is me, light of mine eyes and beloved fruit of my womb!
    For what Simeon foretold in the temple
    is come to pass today: a sword pierces my heart.
    But do thou change my grief to gladness by thy Resurrection.'”
    We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ;
    we venerate Thy Passion, O Christ;
    we venerate Thy passion, O Christ, and Thy Holy Resurrection.



  4. Mule,

    mine too!!!
    (My church has Russian roots, so the basil is in pretty pots next to the Crucifixion icon in the center of the nave. We’ll cut loose later.)

    The OT resurrectional readings, one after the other, like successively larger ocean waves, the one chanter’s voice singing “Let God arise! Let his enemies be scattered!…”, the swapping out of the purple paraments for white… There’s an earthshattering thing just around the corner – you don’t know exactly when it’s going to happen, but the undercurrent of expectation is phenomenal. Then on we go to the Liturgy to bring us back to the present, with the most beautiful, solemn, melancholy and grounding thing ever (sung only once a year on this day – yes, after the crucifixion and burial):

    Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
    and stand with fear and trembling
    and take no thought for any earthly thing.
    For the King of Kings and Lord of Lords draws near to be sacrificed
    and given as food to the faithful.
    Before him go the choirs of angels
    with all the principalities and powers,
    the many-eyed cherubim and the six-winged seraphim,
    covering their faces as they sing this hymn:
    Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.



  5. I feel more connected to this day when I imagine myself hiding with the apostles. If silence can ever be heard, this is the day for it.


  6. Y’all can bitch ‘n’ moan all you want.

    Holy Saturday is my favorite of all the Orthodox services, including Pascha night and Theophany When you enter the sanctuary, everything is dark and subdued. Christ is in the tomb. The prayers are all chanted in a minor tone, adding to the general melancholy.

    Then, about a third of the way through the service, the celebrant emerges from behind the iconostasis with a basket of freshly cut basil leaves. He throws them around the sanctuary with great vigor, proclaiming from Psalm 67

    Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.
    As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
    But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.

    and the tone of the service changes to one of triumph, because the strong man has been bound and Christ is harrowing Hell, proclaiming liberty to the captives.

    Ok, ok, I get it. There are still Republicans in the world, laughing at the losers and grinding the faces of the poor into the mud. The strong and heartless still prosper, and the kindly and empathic suffer. The wolves still tear out the throats of the running deer.

    But there are times when I think; we gotta stop being such wusses and just take whatever this cruel world and our vicious adversary passes out. The salient has been broken through! The enemy troops are flying back towards the Rhine, and our valiant allies have penetrated deep into Eastern Poland. That attitude would serve us well that my uncle had when he got his Purple Heart at Strasbourg in January 1945 – “We got these bastards licked.”

    That’s easy for Mule to say with a belly full of food and both lungs full of air, but I know one man who lot his son and is drinking three bottles of wine daily and shaking his fist at God, and another couple who lost their daughter and are faithful at Church every Sunday and adopted two Ukrainian orphans to take her place.

    I’m sorry, but when my time comes, I pray I can follow their example, not his.


  7. https://internetmonk.com/archive/he-descended-into-hell

    “Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great 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. . . He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, 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 Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him – He who is both their God and the son of Eve. . . “I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. . . I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.””


  8. That was a good article. I liked the premise, the struggle it outlines, and its conclusion:

    “’But in fact,’ St. Paul says, everything changes on Sunday. Come Sunday power loses. Come Sunday, love wins, the meek shall inherit, the merciful will receive mercy and no one will ever go hungry for justice again. Come Sunday, everything changes.
    If there ever is a Sunday.
    And but so, this is why we hope for Sunday and why we live for the hope of Sunday. Even though we can’t know for sure that Sunday will ever come and even if Saturday is all we ever get to see.”


  9. “Whoever doesn’t keep a “quiet Friday” and Easter Day doesn’t have any good day in the year.” -Martin Luther

    Today’s entry on the German web site “Zitate, Sprüche und Gedichte” (Quotes, Sayings and Poems).



  10. –> “I have looked out and felt the Easter breeze blowing new life to all.”

    That line made me think of what Australia suffered through not more than a few months ago. How has post-wildfire recovery been to its people and to nature?


  11. Eeyore,
    Sunday here.
    This why it is different for me now.
    However the gift is renewed each time we remember the Resurection day and rejoice.
    It makes no difference the day, the time or our state of mind, even if is feeling indifferen tand, uneasy or perplexed .
    The Truth stands regardless.
    He is Risen, now and forever.,
    Peace be with you.


  12. and Mary Magdaline came to the tomb whie it was yet still dark,
    12.10am here in Astralia. I have looked out and felt the Easter breeze blowing new life to all.
    Happy Easter to us all.


  13. “And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, O my people.
    And I will put my spirit within you and you shall live?.?.?.”
    (Ezek 37.1–14).


  14. “Sunday language and Sunday certainty… doesn’t make much sense here on Saturday. Here on Saturday, we can hope it’s true and we may even try to believe it’s true, but we can’t know “in fact” one way or another. Not now. Not on Saturday.

    And to be honest, it doesn’t seem terribly likely, because Saturday, this Saturday, is all we’ve ever known. Yesterday was this same Saturday, and so was the day before that, and the day before that, and the day before that.

    Why should we expect that tomorrow will be any different?”



  15. “Conversely, would there be a Christian gospel were it not true that God is self-unveiled only sub contrario, that is, in the very opposite of Godness, hidden amid the outcasts of the earth who, often in the name of God and of the church, are rejected and despised, and who, by the standards of the world, count for nothing except to live and die that the powerful might become more powerful still?”


    “If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door,
    you will not find Him in the chalice.”
    (St. John Chrysostom)


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