Do Not Neglect Holy Saturday

Of all the holy days found in the liturgical calendar, Holy Saturday, which is observed on the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, is probably one of the most unsung.  This day is far from a celebration and perhaps the darkest hour of the Christian year, when Christ’s body has been laid in the tomb.  Despite its gloomy setting, Bishop John Wesley Hardt once said that every Good Friday service should be at least three hours long.  According to the United Methodist Book of Worship, such a practice is seen within the history of the Church as the Devotion of the Three Hours (from noon on Friday to 3:00 p.m.) was first conducted by a Jesuit priest in Peru in the eighteenth century.  The structure of this service focuses on the seven last words of Christ accompanied with music and extended times of prayer.

While such a service would be taxing even for the most pious of us, the idea behind the service is worthy of consideration.  For so often it seems we want to rush past the death of Christ and on to the festival of Easter.  We do not want to seem morbid or cheerless, and so Holy Saturday is just another day instead of the day of depression as Christ remains dead and his followers remain devastated.  In our modern culture, which seems so set on shielding our senses from the realities of suffering through stimulates or distractions, the reality of death is side-stepped so much so that we even neglect the deadness of Christ. 

This aversion to the reality of death is best exemplified in most every obituary we read.  The individual did not die, but rather they passed away, rejoined their loved ones, or went to their heavenly home.  While words of comfort are surely appropriate on such occasion, ignoring the reality of death, at least from our side of the grave, forgoes the real power of Easter.  For Christ did not pass away but rather Christ died and from death was resurrected on Easter morning.  To this point we must consider that there is no real hope without first real despair, there is no resurrection without first death.     

Considering the reality of death is a prominent part of our faith.  As the twentieth century theologian J.S. Whale wrote, “Making sense of life means, ultimately and always, making sense of death.”  For death is the one escapable fact which compels a person to choose between despair and faith.  In truth, we are never so far removed from death as we might want to think.  Holy Saturday is a time to consider our own mortality and the death of those around us.  For in the midst of life, we are in death; from whom can we seek help? 

Psalm 124:8 “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

John 12:24-26 “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”

Rev. Jacob Smith is Senior Pastor of Atlanta First United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Texas, near Texarkana. If you are in the area, Jacob and the rest of his congregation would love to have you stop by to worship with them.

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