As you receive this meditation, we will have just concluded our Good Friday service. In our Book of Common Prayer, the three services at the end of Holy Week — Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday night – are conceived as one long worship service over three days. That means that from the Good Friday liturgy, which ends appropriately in silence, to the beginning of the Vigil with the kindling of the new fire in the dark, there is a long stretch of more than a day when we are still technically within a worship service.
In Marcus Borg’s and John Dominic Crossan’s The Last Week, which we read in our Lenten education series, there is a whole chapter devoted to the in-between time that mostly takes place on Saturday of Holy Week. The authors explore the tradition of the crucified Christ’s “harrowing of hell,” or robbing Hades of the righteous and leading them into resurrection. We find some threads of this tradition in the Gospel of Matthew.
But the earliest gospel, Mark, is silent about what happened on Saturday. And that silence, like the silence with which we end the Good Friday service, resonates with me more as I contemplate this stretch of time between Good Friday and the first celebration of Easter Saturday evening. It is always disconcerting to me to walk home Friday afternoon from church and seeing the world continuing as if nothing has happened — very much like leaving the funeral of a loved one and being amazed that no one else is suffering from grief.
Silence in the face of loss and pain and grief is sometimes the only thing that makes sense. There is a holiness to that silence, and it pushes past the inadequacies of our language, of our communication through so many words. The silence can even reclaim our earliest form of communication which of course was with God — when God knit us together in the womb, as Psalm 139 so poetically puts it.
And so I invite you to spend some time this Holy Saturday in holy silence. Whether for twenty minutes, or five minutes, or even just one, simply sit quietly and let yourself soak in the silence. You don’t have to “do” anything – just let yourself exist in the silence. And may you come to know that God is in the silence with you.