Today is Holy Saturday. For ages that meant nothing more to me than that today is the day reserved for the Easter bunny and Easter egg hunts.
But as an adult I’ve come to understand the rich tradition that the Church has when it comes to Holy Saturday.
Christians of all sorts observe this day — some in deep mourning, while others in hopeful expectation.
Both emotions are completely appropriate. I’ll explain.
Mourning on Holy Saturday
On the original Holy Saturday Jesus lay in his tomb.
His followers were devastated for lots of reasons — Jesus was their friend and he was gone; Jesus was their teacher and his last lesson had ended; Jesus was supposed to be the Messiah but he didn’t live up to their particular expectations.
Jesus was gone from them. And they could only assume that he was gone forever.
Sure, Jesus said that he would die and be raised again when he was with them, but that was ages ago and they were probably confused by it in the moment. Besides, grief has an amazing way of causing us to forget.
So all that Jesus’ friends had was their shared pain. Their only response was to mourn in whatever way made sense to them.
Some gathered together. Others scattered far away. And others could only think of doing something…anything, like caring for Jesus’ physical body.
And so it only makes sense that some Christians take Holy Saturday as a day of mourning, a day of uncertainty, and a day of sadness.
Hopeful Expectation on Holy Saturday
However, other Christians view Holy Saturday differently. They don’t like “pretending” that Jesus is dead, instead preferring to rest in the fact of the resurrection.
Sure, they’ll stop for a moment to reflect on how Jesus’ first followers must have felt but in the end the gravitational pull of Easter is just too strong!
So Holy Saturday is full of fun and hope. Families gather together and engage in celebrations of Spring (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) and kinship.
This often involves fun colors, joyful dancing, and lots and lots of candy!
But other Christians who embrace the hopeful expectation of Holy Saturday do so in a more toned-down way. They gather together and remember the time when Jesus rested in the tomb, even calling Holy Saturday the Great Sabbath.
They treat this day with reverence but with no pretense. They know that the resurrection is coming and use Holy Saturday as a reminder to rest and to trust in the Lord and his timing.
So it completely makes sense that some Christians hold onto the hopeful expectations of Holy Saturday.
Holy Saturday: My Take
I personally view Holy Saturday somberly. I like to ponder how Jesus’ first followers felt.
But at the same time I know the end of the story and my observance of this day is impacted by that reality.
So I prefer to use Holy Saturday as a reminder that God is with us in the in between times, in the times that are difficult and scary.
He’s with us as we wait.
He’s with us in our pain.
He’s with us in our mourning.
And he’s with us in all our various happy emotions too.
Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, took on the full human experience, including death. He laid there in the tomb, with the crisp grave clothes wrapped around his body. He stayed there in obedient patience until the Father deemed the time was right to raise him to new life.
And it’s this that I remember on Holy Saturday. We’re like Jesus — stuck in the in between but with great hope in the God who can bring about amazing change.
Thus, this Holy Saturday rest with Jesus.
Rest with the One who suffered on your behalf and waited in the dark for power of the Father to be revealed.
Rest with Jesus who loves you beyond what you can imagine.
Rest with the One who did all he did for you (and for all of us!).
Rest with Jesus who calls you his own.
He won’t forget you.
He won’t leave you in the in between.
He’ll raise you to new life also.
What do you think? Do you observe Holy Saturday? If so, how and why? Let me know in the comments below!