Holy Saturday: Learning to Live through Death
Today, Christians awake to a silent world. It is not a literal silence but rather a spiritual one. We recognize spiritually the sad coldness of death. This is the day we remember that our Lord truly died and was placed in the tomb. This is a time for quiet reflection. What if this were the end of the story of Jesus? What would life be like – how would it be different?
Many of us know what it is like to lose a loved one. At the same time, we have discovered something more when facing the prospects of life without that person who was particularly loved by anyone of us – a parent, a child, a spouse, a friend. By the gift of faith, we have learned that, while we will always miss the person who has died, our loved one has been given the promise of life eternal with the Lord. It is our hope, too, that one day we will share this new and everlasting life with them. Life has not ended, it has been transformed.
Today is the day we recognize this journey from death to life. Today we learn how to live through death. Holy Saturday is the time of anticipation of the Resurrection of our Lord and his victory over death.
At sundown, the quiet of Holy Saturday gives way to the celebration of the Easter Vigil in which we tell the rest of the story. We remember why life is different. Our quiet reflection gives way to the wonder of the women who go to the tomb mourning and find the tomb empty! Like the women, in this moment we realize that Jesus’ story is our story. Jesus has conquered death. Here our story begins.
In the Eastern Church, on the morning of Easter the Easter Homily of St. John Chrysostom is read. (In our tradition, the homily is read in the Liturgy of the Hours.) It is a beautiful exhortation of the Resurrection. Its final words capture the transition we make in our hearts and in the life of the Church on this day. St. John preaches:
“O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that
have slept. To Him be glory and might unto the ages of ages.
Our day ends by being joined to Christ in a new creation. Whether at the celebration of the vigil tonight or tomorrow at Mass, we will sing “Christ is risen, Christ is truly risen. Alleluia, Alleluia!” It takes on special meaning on this day because as a result of our participation in the sacraments, not only is Christ risen, but we are risen in him and we have been given new life as a part of his new creation.