The CME Church

Don’t Rush Past Holy Saturday. Feel, Endure, and Hallow this Day By Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick

Dear CME Family:

          Today is called “Holy Saturday” in some seldom used liturgical calendars – that day between Friday night at the end of the crucifixion and the dawning of Sunday morning when the women were astonished that “the stone [had been] rolled away.”

          In some of the old liturgical calendars, Good Friday and Holy Saturday carry the liturgical color of black, symbolizing death.

          Yet, like people who go under anesthesia in order not to feel the pains of a physical operation, many if not most of us run past emotional pains and uncomfortable, agonizing memories all the time.  So, we generally do nothing on this day between Good Friday and Easter.  We do nothing.  We see nothing.  We feel nothing (at least, not liturgically).

          But what did the disciples do … see … feel on the day after the crucifixion?  Surely they could not escape this day’s agony!  

           We may learn some lessons by pausing, reflecting, wondering … what could they have felt?  What might have been the hollow hole in their hearts caused by their grief – on the day after the crucifixion?  (Anybody carrying a hollow hole left from the death of a love one?)  And there may be lessons to this day that can help us walk through the overwhelming nature of our own pains and sufferings – pains and sufferings that may touch us before we die … and from which we would rather be anesthetized, but may not be.

        There is a picture in my mind from visiting the hospital room of a dying patient about 30 years ago, who – about a week before she succumbed – kept breathing loud enough for every breath to sound like a groan (audibly not anesthetized), and, with each breath, had to face as well an accompanying physical pain.  Some of us will, of necessity, go through some agony.  Could reflecting today on what the disciples and Mary had to feel on this holy Saturday help us endure when our times of great trial come?

          We seem to want to rush through difficult times.  We see in the Gospels a rush to get Jesus buried on Friday before sundown.  We see Joseph of Arimathea (“a disciple but secretly”) begging Pilate for the body of Jesus.  We see Jesus quickly buried in a borrowed tomb, while the “anointing of the body” awaits the passing of the Sabbath – which, in the Jewish world, begins Friday at sundown, and ends Saturday at sundown.

          But, following the rush, what might they have had to deal with inwardly … emotionally … prayerfully … agonizingly … for what were probably about 30-plus hours before the dawning of the day on Sunday and before the word of what you and I now know became “good news”?

          Several years ago when our son Jon was in elementary school, a Jewish family of one of his classmates invited Jon and me to their home for the Passover seder meal.  (There is nothing like learning about a faith from one of the faith’s adherents, rather than its critics.)  There I learned from their perspective the sacredness of “remembering,” of “the wormwood and the gall,” of the patience of a teaching ritual of re-enacting in order to put ourselves where “they” were (“they” being those Israelites who fled Egypt hastily in escape from Pharoah and oppression).

          I particularly remember that experience today as today is not only holy Saturday in our Christian calendar, but today is also (as of “sundown” last night and until sundown tonight) the first day of the Jewish Passover.  That family would have eaten that meal last night.

          And thinking of that meal with them, I also thought of Jews who have fled Ukraine who probably are celebrating Passover with a more nuanced “remembrance” … because it is more than a ritual of “remembrance”; this time it is present reality.  (And they cannot escape their thoughts.)

          I am wearing all black today.  The last time I wore all black was the Sunday of mourning and identifying after the death of Michael Brown of Ferguson.  As I prepared to dress, I remembered the Latino evangelical leader who embraced wearing black on that same Sunday and pressed his church to do so.  He wanted to identify and empathize with us.  And so I wear black today to identify with those walking in anguish and pains and sorrows they cannot escape, but must endure today … and endure without anesthesia.

          Stop long enough today to feel … to wonder … to imagine … what the earliest disciples of Jesus must have thought and felt and wondered as they faced “holy Saturday.”


Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick