Reframe the Pain: Holy Saturday
Every year I say it, and so I will say it again this year:
Holy Saturday is the most honest day of the Church.
It is the vortex of pain and balm, grief and comfort, rage and reconciliation, despair and hope.
We have a foot in each truth, on this day: things as they are, and things as they will be.
Here’s a distinct difference, though, between this Holy Saturday and the first one: in contrast to those living at the time of Jesus’ dying, we know it’s Holy Saturday.
To those who loved Jesus—and, for that matter, who hated him, or were indifferent to him—it was…Saturday.
Of course, any Saturday was the Sabbath; I do not mean to diminish the sacredness of that weekly, holy observance.
But it was a Saturday, it was a Sabbath, like any other, excepting the rocking, wrecking, wrenching grief of Jesus’ crucifixion the day before.
The women didn’t know what they would find—or wouldn’t find—come the next morning. And the men didn’t even come to look.
Nobody knew anything about angels or gardeners or of fear when faced by resurrection news.
All they knew was despondency.
But we do know something about angels and gardeners and fear, because we know the story.
We know that Jesus got himself on up, declared himself hungry (well-deserved, to be sure) and announced that death doesn’t win.
But the Holy Saturdays in our lives can mess us up, precisely because we know the story.
We know by faith that resurrection happens, and if it did then, why not now?
Think about times when someone we love is gravely injured and ill, and we cling to the hope that resurrection will happen, because it did way back on that day.
Think about relationships we have lived through with a loved one who sabotages trust and spirits and even self, and we keep staying Saturday after Saturday after Saturday, on the edge of our seat for that sure-to-be-coming Sunday…which never seems to come on our calendar.
Think about addictions or harmful habits or personal/relational/vocational patterns we have known all too well, and we keep thinking that this time, this time, we have given them up, broken them down, stopped them in their tracks…and then Friday comes before Sunday every damn time.
I’ve written before about the line I heard sometime back: the amount of pain in your life is commensurate with the distance between your reality and your expectations.
Back on that Holy Saturday, those surrounding Jesus knew only the reality of his death and had no expectation of his renewed life.
We, in contrast, we know the reality of his death (and any number of variations on that theme in our own lives) and we know to expect not just his resurrection, but ours.
But that resurrection changes our perception of reality and expectations.
It frees us to re-evaluate our reality, and our expectations.
We are liberated to consider changing not just our expectations (typically by first considering lowering them, but it is worth a handy reminder that our expectations can just as well be raised) but changing our very reality.
Holy Saturday, for us who know about Holy Sunday, is where the stirring to reconsider everything begins.
We can hope for complete healing, or we can trust that death doesn’t win, and we refuse to cede to it our spirits too.
We can hope for relational reconciliation, or we can see that the resurrection will come not from within a toxic person or dynamic, but by leaving it all behind.
We can hope to break out of harmful self-sabotage, or we can see our return to wellness as incremental, as a work-in-progress, as a reminder that we are still here, with breath to change, to fight, to become whole again, to live—and die—another day.
Holy Saturday doesn’t eliminate pain.
It reframes it.