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Meditational Thoughts for Holy Saturday

Meditational Thoughts for Holy Saturday

By Bruce Atkinson
Special to Virtueonline
April 11, 2020

Although many people today are preparing for Easter, if you can find the time (even next week), it is worth meditating on that silent, holy Sabbath, the Saturday in-between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

The Day In-between

This is a day of mystery and silence and mourning and waiting, when nothing much seemed to be happening, when people were recovering from the shock of Good Friday ... before they recognized the "good" in it. Some call it Holy Saturday or Silent Saturday. It comes between Good Friday (a day of crisis and climatic human events) and Resurrection Sunday (a day when the hand of God accomplishes the miraculous). Still today, Sunday enlightens our understanding of why Good Friday's events needed to happen and re-awakens our hopes for the future. Easter Sunday allows us to re-charge our spiritual batteries and prepares us to start a new cycle of work.

Since He is omniscient, lives in eternity, and is not limited by our space-time constraints, God knew even before His creation of the universe exactly what would happen to His Only Begotten Son on one special weekend outside Jerusalem-- and so from the beginning He made Saturday a Holy Sabbath Day of rest, silence, prayer, and waiting on God.

For the Jews, that particular Saturday was regarded as a sacred Sabbath of rest, of waiting, of resting. God set aside the seventh day of the week (which included Passion Week's Sabbath) as a day of rest, first for Himself in His work of the creation of the universe, and secondly for us, to rest each week on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3). But for the first disciples, that one Saturday was a day of lamentation-- there was nothing to do but grieve, fear, doubt, and hide.

Jesus again fulfilled the 4th commandment by totally resting physically in the grave on that one particular Sabbath (which for the Jews was Friday sunset to Saturday sunset). After the Sabbath was fulfilled, now it was time to go back to work.

After the Resurrection of Jesus on the first day of the week (or the 8th Day of Creation as it has been called), we have a new cycle of renewal, Kingdom building, and God's drawing Christ's bride to Himself.

I forget where I got much of the following meditation. I don't think it all came through me, but I have edited it and I wholeheartedly endorse it.

Sabbath Silence

We have something that the first followers of Jesus did not have on that silent Sabbath after His death; we know that ResurrectionSunday is coming. But they did not yet fully believe what He had told them. All they knew was that their beloved teacher, friend, and master, perhaps even the Messianic Son of David and the Son of God, the one that was going to change everything, had died. Not only had he died, He had died a horrific death on the cross. Judas had betrayed Him. Peter had denied Him three times. The brothers who fought over who would sit at Jesus' right hand now had lost hope. Thomas... well, I think Thomas was at such a loss that he didn't even want to be with the other apostles. He wanted to be alone. And they all mourned. They all were confused, frightened, and even despairing.

When God is silent, and when hope is not on the horizon, what does one do? What other choice is there but to wait? When the silence is so profound, palpable and real, it is also disturbing, frightening, and isolating. We may feel a sense of abandonment, even for some of us who know that salvation is coming.

Even we, who live on this side of the Resurrection, experience moments of silence from God, and periods of struggle with our faith. But we are not without hope because we know that He who rose that Sunday sees and knows and loves us ... even when the silence from heaven is deafening.

A Saturday Age

Perhaps the original divine idea of the Sabbath rest was about a similar time in-between, between the work of Creation and the work of Redemption. Most certainly, there was one particular Hebrew Sabbath that caused the disciples of Jesus to do virtually nothing--but to grieve, and to fear, and to wait.

But there is also a valid perception that we are even now living in an in-between age. We are between remembering the past (Christ has died) and looking forward to the future (Christ will come again). It is a time of waiting and watching, but also living into our purpose of glorifying God and staying spiritually grounded. So we worship together in the Eucharist as directed by our Lord and remember what He did for us, celebrating our incomprehensibly intimate union with Him, sharing His Body and Blood, He living in us and we in Him.

Going Forward

For us, waiting also means being busy with service and proclaiming Christ's gospel (Christ is risen). From John R.W. Stott: " 'Serving' and 'waiting' go together in the experience of [kingdom work]. Indeed, this is at first sight surprising, since 'serving' is active, while 'waiting' is passive. In Christian terms, 'serving' is getting busy for Christ on earth, while 'waiting' is looking for Christ to come from heaven. Yet these two are not incompatible. On the contrary, each balances the other. On the one hand, however hard we work and serve, there are limits to what we can accomplish. We can only improve society; we cannot perfect it. We shall never build a utopia on earth. For that we have to wait for Christ to come. Only then will he secure the final triumph of God's reign of justice and peace. On the other hand, although we must look expectantly for the coming of Christ, we have no liberty to wait in idleness, with arms folded and eyes closed, indifferent to the needs of the world around us. Instead, we must work even while we wait, for we are called to serve the living and true God. Thus working and waiting belong together. In combination they will deliver us both from the presumption, which thinks we can do everything, and from the pessimism, which thinks we can do nothing."

May you go to bed tonight and sleep peacefully, in the knowledge that our Jesus did not stay in the grave, that Resurrection Sunday was coming! And at this very time, a resurrected Jesus is preparing a place for us; He will return soon to unite us with our New Jerusalem home. In the meantime we have the great privilege of working with Him to build His Kingdom on earth.

Some additional recommended resources:

Dr. Bruce Atkinson holds a Ph.D. in counselling, is based in Atlanta, attends an ACNA parish and regularly subscribes to VOL



By Gary L'Hommedieu
Special to Virtueonline
April 11, 2020

God is dead

Today the liturgical calendar marks the absence of God, the Sabbath of the Creator not only from nature but from Being, an inconceivable emptiness. As much as we always pray for a sense of the near presence of God, today we remember his self-emptying, not to the earth but in the earth.

What horrific grace would be necessary for us to experience a total absence of God? As his image-bearers to forget him completely is not only unnatural but impossible. I contemplate his absence, therefore I am. If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou art not there either.

Chaos is respectfully poised on this Sabbath, perhaps the only keeper of its portended rest. Even the busyness of the world is hushed on this mournful day.

At the beginning of this Sabbath, after the last songs of Good Friday, the downtown taverns were about their boisterous celebrations in that world where every day is a celebration, a mock eternity. It was appropriate, perhaps the only honest emotion. We can picture the disciples hiding amidst the inebriated crowds, fearing detection as apostles of something new, the first evangelists of the death of God.

"Shall thy wondrous works be known in the dark?" (Psalm 88:12)

Let us dare pray for the grace to know not God even as we are not known, to hope not against hope but against hopelessness.

Today God is dead. Tomorrow is another day or is it?

Unholy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the day when holiness is obliterated. Today the holy and profane are united in a counterfeit Eden. The curtain separating the Holy of Holies is torn in two, not admitting the Gentiles but banishing the High Priest, who alone may transgress that threshold.

Jacob awakes from an empty dream. There are no angels ascending and descending in empty space. The Chosen receive not the favor of the One who chose but the objects of their own choosing, their own favors.

Tonight we keep a new Passover. A new fire ignites a new creation, born again out of nothing. is, or is not, another day.


Holy Saturday: marginalization, persecution, martyrdom

By Archbishop Cranmer
April 11, 2020

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.

There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand (Jn. 19:41f).

The Messiah, the Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah, the hope of Israel, the long-promised Saviour is dead. He lies lifeless in a tomb. For most Christians, after the intensity of the Last Supper and the Passion, this is usually a low-key day of quiet expectation and preparation for tomorrow.

Holy Saturday is a much misunderstood day, seemingly of no great spiritual significance. Jesus is buried: we are left wondering and waiting. But for the Lord, it was the day he descended to Hades and conquered eternal death.

Most of the Church has forgotten the Harrowing of Hell. Those who remember tend to half apologise for it. Certainly, 'hell' is not a helpful translation: Jesus was in Hades (ᾍδης) or Sheol (שאול) -- a place of peace for some and torment for others. Following the trauma of the crucifixion, Mary was distraught, the disciples were weeping, Judas was hanging, and the Romans, Pharisees and Sadducees were rejoicing. But Jesus was descending to the place of departed spirits to preach the Good News and liberate the captives.

The Apostles' Creed says so ('He descended into hell' [BCP]); Aquinas affirms this in the Summa (IIIa, q52). The idea is found in some of the earliest writings of the Church Fathers: Irenaeus, in his tract Contra Haereses (5,31,2), says the Lord "tarried until the third day 'in the lower parts of the earth' (Eph 4:9)... where the souls of the dead were...". And Tertullian, in A Treatise on the Soul (60), wrote: "With the same law of His being He fully complied, by remaining in Hades in the form and condition of a dead man; nor did He ascend into the heights of heaven before descending into the lower parts of the earth, that He might there make the patriarchs and prophets partakers of Himself."

The event is referred or alluded to numerous times in Scripture (Acts 2:31; Eph 4:8-10; 1Pt 3:18-20), and many consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31) relevant, and also Jesus' statement to the thief on the cross -- 'Today shalt thou be with me in paradise' (Lk 23:42f). There are naturally diverse interpretations of these scriptures and conflicting expositions: it is not news that Christians disagree, not least on the soteriological implications of a 'second chance' of repentance after death. Whether or not this was the point of salvation for Adam and Eve, Noah, David... cannot be known this side of Glory. What we do know is that the Lord wants all to be saved (1Tim 2:4): He wants all to see His image, repent of their sin, take on His likeness; be pure, holy, perfect. He wants everyone to know Him and to love more.

On this Holy Saturday, the final day of Lent, let our faith be made stronger; let us be more assured that sin and death are conquered; let us know a little more of the light through the sometimes impenetrable shadows. Whether the Harrowing of Hell is literal or figurative, corporeal or spiritual, it has a message for all of us today: the highest response to evil is to free people from it. Let us rejoice that our Redeemer lives.

And let us also remember that while we may occasionally feel marginalised and outcast in the UK, there are Christians in other countries -- our brothers and sisters -- who are being harassed, persecuted, tortured and murdered for their faith. Jesus never promised us a rose garden:

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me (John 15:18-21).

Jesus went to hell and back. Christians are being raped, beheaded or crucified across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Surely we can put up with a bit of 'marginalization'.


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