Holy Saturday

Photo by Cathy Leask


Early Christian writing reveals that Holy Week has been marked since at least the 4th century. One such writer, a Christian noblewoman named Etheria, wrote from the Holy Land back to the women in her community describing daily worship in the week leading up to Easter. It is in this tradition that we share services this week. Thanks to Heather and Cor for recording Gymnopédie No.1. It seems a perfect match for the mood of Holy Saturday.


For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down,
that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease.
Though its root grows old in the earth,
and its stump dies in the ground,
yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth branches like a young plant.
—Job 14.7-9


We wait, Lord,
for one more sign—
one more glimpse of your Kingdom.
Parables spoken, bread broken,
and water made into the finest wine.
Yet we wait.
Lives mended, the dead raised,
even the waves bowed before your glory.
Yet we wait.
Wait with us, Lord,
and remind us that new life springs
in the most unlikely places.


They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the people. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.

And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. —John 19.40-42


Just a few short days ago I suggested that this is the longest Lent ever. If Lent is a time of withdrawal from others, with solitude, and forced simplicity, and the ongoing need for self-discipline—then we’ve been practicing Lent for a very long time.

Now another suggestion. Perhaps we’re in the middle of a very long Holy Saturday. Consider it: Holy Saturday is that liminal place, that not-quite-here-and-not quite-there place that is defined by time in the tomb. In the three part movement that defines our religion (“Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again”) we are somewhere between part one and part two. In the same way, our life under COVID seems like being stick between death and new life, between great peril and the assurance that everything will be okay. It’s a very long Holy Saturday.

Meanwhile, there is a lesson from Holy Saturday that we can bring to our time. I expect the disciples spend that first Holy Saturday wishing to turn back the clock. Maybe they thought Jesus would resuscitate himself, and leave the tomb in the way Lazarus left the tomb. But it was not to be. Life would not return to the way it was. Likewise, this Holy Saturday of COVID will end, and it won’t simply go back to the way it was. Yet the lesson of resurrection is that new life can appear, in ways we never expect, even from a time such as this.

MUSIC: “Gymnopédie No.1” (Satie)


O Tree of Calvary,
send your roots deep down into my heart.
Gather together the soil of my heart,
the sands of my fickleness,
the mud of my desires.
Bind them all together,
O Tree of Calvary,
interlace them with your strong roots,
entwine them with the network of your love.
In the shadow places, beneath the soil,
the mystery of eternity forms,
and we form,
made new through the death of Jesus the Christ.
Hold us in this time,
and hold those who need you.


The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all,
but in everything, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
—Philippians 4.5b-7

7 thoughts on “Holy Saturday

  1. These daily services have been a real bonus and we appreciate all your efforts, Great reflection, Michael and that music – so hauntingly beautiful and appropriate!! God bless you all.❤❤

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