In the Christian year, the day between Good Friday, the day of the execution of Jesus, and Easter morning, the dawn of new life, is called Holy Saturday. Most often observed in the Roman Catholic tradition, recognition of the day is seeping into other branches of the Christian family.
Theological interpretations range from the wild and woolly - Jesus descending into hell to redeem the kind souls who came before him - to the mundane. I don’t pretend to understand the theological intricacies of the day in this age of quantum physics. Although I do appreciate my friend, the Rev. Dr. Edwin Searcy, highlighting its importance, both in theology and his living.
I know something of the spiritual feeling of Holy Saturday - the time when the ashes of my brightest hopes for new life lie smouldering.
Many times I have succumbed to hope in a release plan for my son from prison. Often piecing together such a program takes months, countless phone calls, hours spent tracking down options and opportunities, often timed to the hour. Then days, even hours after the prison gates have opened, to discover those hopes abandoned like a discarded needle.
Others carry similar stamps in their own spiritual passport.
Decades of long, faithful service wind down as the turn is made toward the bright light of retirement on the horizon. And then symptoms, mild and usually dismissed, turn into a devastating illness.
A child, fresh and full of wonder and delight, begins to exhibit signs of something not deemed “normal.” And parenting becomes a graduate course in mental and physical challenges, complete with hours of self-examination, doubt and countless meetings with teachers, counsellors and professionals.
The pieces of a life long dreamed about are all on the table, about to be assembled and then comes a phone saying Mom and/or Dad are not well. And fantasies of long, luxurious holidays in exotic vacation rentals morph into regular trips “back home” to be part of the care team.
And now? The only thing we seem to know for sure is that the future toward which we are sliding will be significantly different than life in December 2019.
Even without the pandemic, futurists forecast a radically disrupted world as a result of the convergence of developments like “quantum computers, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, material science, networks, sensors, 3-D printing, augmented reality, virtual reality, blockchain, and more.” Profound displacement of entire industries with the loss of millions of jobs seasoned with the hope of new employment opportunities (albeit for different people). The transition will not be easy or smooth. Add in the possibilities economists and politicians worry about in our immediate future and the descriptors “uncertain,” or even “disrupted,” seem tame.
Harsh, often spirit-crushing times, are part of life, contrary to the advertisements and movies where everything works out in the end. One of the distinguishing features of Holy Saturday periods is that the cry of Jesus from the cross, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me” continues to echo off the canyon walls. Holy Saturday times are not just rough patches but times when the very best of who we are and what we hope for seems not only disrespected but trampled, cast aside and torn apart like a second-hand T-shirt. The most sacred parts of our soul abused.
The deep sense of being alone hardly captures Holy Saturday time.
During the many decades of my son’s addiction and through other significant challenges, I have not often railed against God. In fact, I would say God has often put in overtime presenting opportunities. But I have chafed against the fact that being Christian means, in effect, that I am a prisoner of hope.
Moments of blackness, depression and even despair can visit, and I am tempted to sink in the quicksand of self-pity; yet, my soul has been long marinated in the Christian story. The story of Easter invades my heart in a way that the earliest disciples would not have felt. The sense that something new may be coming lingers. The Sacred Power of New and Redeemed Life rustles the dying leaves in the garden and stirs the ashes of holy yearning.
And sometimes that makes life easier and sometimes harder.