Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. Luke 23:53-54 (ESV)
In this world suffering and disease are indeed ‘normal,’ but their very ‘normalcy’ is abnormal. They reveal the ultimate and permanent defeat of man and of life, a defeat which no partial victories of medicine, however wonderful and truly miraculous, can ultimately overcome. But in Christ suffering is not ‘removed’ ; it is transformed into victory. The defeat itself becomes victory, a way, an entrance into the Kingdom, and this is the only true healing.[i]
Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World
The Saturday of Holy Week has always held a certain fascination for me. Settled between death (Good Friday) and life (Easter), Saturday feels forgotten and overlooked. In the Easter story it is a day of silence and uneasiness. For at this point in the story, Jesus’ death signified only failure and disaster. Shouts of violence and death had overwhelmed the singular call of love, justice, and equality that Jesus had so passionately pursued. Humanity’s collective “No!” to Christ wasn’t meant with dramatic intervention or retaliation. In response to unspeakable violence, God was silent. Between Friday and Sunday there was only silence and waiting.
Uncomfortable with the silence, the church filled this day with stories and traditions to alleviate it. Yet, scripture remains agonizingly silent. Saturday, for the most part, remains a time of silence and waiting. Silence in the face of the violence. Waiting for that which is not known. I believe that a true liminality exists within the Easter story. A liminality that exhibits the forgotten narrative of Easter. It is the narrative mystery that lies between death and life, which poses the question: What follows Saturday?
This question seems to haunt the characters of the story. Though scripture provides few details, there must have existed an underlying doubt as to what would happen after Saturday. What will happen on Sunday? What will happen next week or the one after that? Saturday, the first day after the crucifixion, must have felt like a day separate from time. The apparent victory of violence undoubtedly signaled a very different future from the one Jesus’ had promised. For in one day, everything had been thrown into doubt and chaos. The future was now unknown and beyond their grasp. Saturday, the day after, was now a day of coping with this new liminal experience. It was anyone’s guess as to what the new week would bring. Death already had its say. Would it remain the final word going into Sunday? Would there be hope after Saturday? There was no way to know.
Of course, we the readers already know the conclusion to this story. Saturday is now a blip between crucifixion and resurrection. Barely worth mentioning. A day after and before, yet nothing more. But let’s consider how miraculous Saturday was, and what Saturday truly represents for us today. Because Saturday is both our burden and our hope.
So many of us are living in Saturday. It can be the feeling of dealing with a Friday of failure or disappointment. Perhaps it’s a personal failure or a poor decision. Each day then becomes a struggle of living with that failure. Friday has passed, leaving us with only Saturday. A day defined and bound to whatever failure has happened before. Is there hope after failure? Thus, we wait and wonder, and ask: What follows Saturday?
For others, Saturday is coping with the dreaded Friday of disease. When Friday takes away our physical health, it leaves us with the day-to-day struggle of Saturday. Caught between sickness and health, Saturday becomes a physical battle ground of unpleasantness and discomfort. In-between, Saturday leaves us wondering if there will ever be a Sunday. Is there healing after disease? What follows Saturday?
Still, others live in the Saturday of inequality and injustice. Friday represents the social and political ills that plague our country and world. It’s the scourge of economics and the denial of a living wage. It’s the plague of prejudice that inflicts Fridays of racism and sexism that strips away one’s humanity. It’s the political inaction by the legislatures who no longer care about representing, much less respecting, its citizenry. As such, it leaves us only with Saturday. Again, we are eager for the next day. Will Friday ever be rectified? What follows Saturday?
As people of Saturday, we’re caught between the real-life struggle of death and life. We deal with the burden of the unknown, of not knowing what the future will bring. Thus, not-knowing invokes a dreaded feeling that is both powerful and unsettling. And yet, I have hope. I have hope that reconciliation and restoration await us the day after Saturday. For if the Easter story has shown me one thing, it’s that death can be transformed into new life. Defeat can be transformed into victory.
Through His own suffering, not only has all suffering acquired a meaning but it has been given the power to become itself the sign, the sacrament, the proclamation, the ‘coming’ of that victory; the defeat of man, his very dying has become a way of Life. [ii]
I have hope because God has already transformed death into victory. The Easter story is also a story about Saturdays. It’s a story about living in-between failure and disappointment, sickness and health, injustice and justice, and death and life. Thus, the story teaches us that victory is rarely immediate. There will be periods of living in-between. We will undergo doubt, questioning, frustration, and hardship. Saturday will test us physically, mentally, and spiritually. And yet, Saturday will pass. Easter points to the hope we can still have in the future.
What follows Saturday? I have hope in what follows Saturday.
[i] Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1973), 103.
[ii] Schmemann, 104.