Holy Saturday, to me, is a day in the life of the church of mourning and remembrance of the life of Christ. And, most importantly, it is a day to acknowledge the end of Christ’s life, and yet the beginning of new life to come. It is in death that new, everlasting life begins. Death is not a thing to truly mourn…we mourn for those still on the earth. But we rejoice with those in heaven: the angels, the saints, and all of eternity, who rejoice at the everlasting life that was won for all in the death of Jesus on the cross. So, Holy Saturday is not a day that we mourn for ourselves…or even for Christ. We mourn for those who put Jesus to death…and who still put Jesus on the cross in their ignorance of the unconditional love that God has for all of us in Jesus Christ. We mourn for those who, each day, deny that love that is given freely to the world. Those people who live in darkness without acknowleding or embodying that love…and yet, just around the corner, just a day away, just a word away, is new and unending life. That day of Easter, of the empty tomb, of radiant light, is free for all of creation. It is for those who don’t see it that we mourn. And it is for all of us that Christ died and returns each day in our hearts.
The duteous day now closeth,
each flower and tree reposeth,
shade creeps o’er wild and wood:
let us, as night is falling,
on God our Maker calling,
give thanks to him, the Giver good.
Now all the heavenly splendor
breaks forth in starlight tender
from myriad worlds unknown;
and man, this marvel seeing,
forget his selfish being
for joy of beauty not his own.
His care he drowneth yonder,
lost in the abyss of wonder;
to heaven his soul doth steal:
this life he disesteemeth,
the day it is that dreameth,
that doth from truth his vision seal.
Awhile his mortal blindness
may miss God’s lovingkindness
and grope in faithless strife;
but when life’s day is over,
shall death’s fair night discover
the fields of everlasting life.
–Words: Paul Gerhardt, 1648; trans. Robert Seymour Bridges, 1899
–Tune: O WELT, ICH MUSS DICH LASSEN, melody att. Heinrich Isaac (1450?-1517); harm. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)