Great Saturday- The Great Pause
I write this on Good Friday,. I have been reading, remembering, meditating and praying throughout the day. “Jesus Paid It All” is more than a song on this day. It is difficult to consolidate the events of that wonderfully tragic day about 2,000 years ago. Marlene and I will join friends at a service this evening to center our thoughts and express our deep gratitude to God for His marvelous gift. We will no doubt focus on the cross, perhaps be reminded of the 7 last words from the cross and I understand this year we will receive the Lord’s Supper.
Easter is around the corner. It is my favorite celebration of the year- much better than birthdays and Hallmark holidays. The world changed on Easter. I cannot help but weep as I experience the joy and victory associated with the empty tomb. Death’s days are numbered. Easter is proof. Those who live by faith have this as an anchor of hope.
Then there is the day between Good Friday and Easter- Saturday. Unlike Good Friday and Easter which are always called Good Friday and Easter in every culture, the Saturday between is called by different names around the world by different groups and has been throughout history. It is Holy Saturday, Great Saturday, Great Sabbath, Black Saturday, Joyous Saturday, Easter Eve and The Saturday of Light. The name depends upon your tradition and what you think happened on that day. You can see from the names that one group refers to it as Black while another refers to it as Light and still another as Joyous- a contrast indeed. One tradition uses a religious term that does not describe anything specific about it (Holy Saturday) while another tradition only names it in proximity to Easter (Easter Eve). With the Scriptures being somewhat silent on the matter [Yes, I am aware of conjecture on Jesus preaching (1 Peter 3:19) and dungeons and hell and captives and separation from the Father and even much needed sleep.] Truth is, we do not know much about the day or even the reason for the space between Good Friday and Easter. Why not just move from one to the other without a day between?
Some have conjectured that the reason for the break was for Jesus to do some unfinished redemptive business in other places. One creed has Him descending into hell for an undisclosed period of time. Another thought is that a full day between would be necessary to cement the notion that this was not a “mostly dead” scenario, but that Jesus was in the grave long enough to be “all dead.” Still others speculate that Jesus was with the Father on Saturday and thus unrecognizable to at least a few after the resurrection on Sunday even though he had the marks on his body of the crucifixion. In some traditions, Holy Saturday is a day to rest and reflect. In others, it is a day to go to the cemetery and be reminded of the state of the body before resurrection. In others, Holy Saturday is not celebrated at all.
For those who have read thus far waiting for me to disclose the real reason, the real activity and the real value of Great Saturday, I am guaranteed to disappoint. It could be that most of the above took place. Even if it did, it was all unseen to the public and therefore not scientifically verifiable. It could be that not much at all happened that day. The varied names and interpretations can leave everyone wondering. But, one thing is without doubt- this was one of the biggest and most suspenseful pauses in human history.
That’s right. If nothing else, it was a divine pause between death and life. Perhaps that is the point. Perhaps death is so severe and solemn that one needs to pause. You can’t just move on or even focus when the death of a loved one leaves you numb. I certainly needed a pause after our son, Mitchell, passed. In fact, I was speechless and out of breath. I needed time to grieve, weep, hope, anticipate, appreciate and thank. Perhaps after Good Friday, the only proper purpose for the next day was to pause to allow everyone who cared to cry and mourn.
Similarly, before something great in life takes place, a pause is the common experience of those watching and waiting in eager anticipation. Right before the sunrise, people freeze. Right before the birth of the child, everything stops, everyone (except the mother and doctor) freezes, waiting for the first sight and first cry. Right before a person proposes to the love of his/her life, there is a pause- a gulp, a brief period of quiet when the person is mentally rehearsing the right words and waiting for the right moment to pop the question. The night before the big game, the athlete often lays quietly in bed, pausing even without sleep. Before most big events in life, there is a pause. Perhaps right before Easter, the only proper purpose for the day before would be to reflect before the great crescendo and all heaven and earth breaks forth in song.
In short, maybe there was nothing else that made sense between Good Friday and Easter than to pause and reflect, pause and wait, think about faith and see if it is still intact. I will pause tomorrow because of what happened today and what will happen on Easter.
In music, the “tacet” is when nothing is happening, the “fermata” is when everything is on hold. They are two of the most dynamic parts of orchestration. Dozens of things are happening simultaneously often with the end of the song still to come and suddenly everything stops or the instruments hold their notes. These pauses give value and distinction to everything before and after them. Pauses very useful in communication, before making a serious decision, to build up courage, to look back with profound gratitude. Peace shows up in the pause. Revelation comes in the pause. In fact, many times pause is the only proper response. So, today I will weep and remember. On Easter, I will break forth in song with great joy. Tomorrow, I will let all of it sink in and pause, something most of us are terrible at doing. My friends in Asia are already there.