Holy Saturday, at the Easter Vigil
Father James Swanson, LC
Liturgical note: There is no liturgy for Holy Saturday. Christian tradition has the Church waiting at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on his suffering and death. Today’s meditation is taken from the Gospel reading for Easter Sunday at the Easter Vigil.
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. On entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’”
Introductory Prayer: Jesus, you are my faithful friend in life and in death. I discover in your rising my guarantee and hope of everlasting life. After such a show of love you deserve all my faith, all my hope and all my love. I offer these to you humbly and gratefully. You alone are the Lord of my life. You are the true purpose of my life. I long to see your loving face, Lord, but I must wait in hope to see you in eternity.
Petition: Lord Jesus, increase my hope in you.
- In the Middle of Darkness: Mary and the other women were without hope. Jesus was dead. The only thing left was to give him a proper burial. They had been in a rush on Friday evening because of the impending Sabbath. Now they could do things properly. It would be hard to see him again, to look at that expressionless face they had known so well, to anoint the cold stiff flesh of the one who had meant everything to them. Once the anointing was done what would they do? What would be the future of this group Jesus had gathered around him? They had even heard that some members of the group were leaving today, to return to their homes because now that Jesus was dead, everything was over. It was now meaningless to be his follower. It was hard to believe that it was really all over, but that seemed to be the truth they had to face. The darkness of discouragement does not belong to a Christian.
- An Unexpected Light Dawns: In the middle of their doubt, in the middle of their sorrow, in the middle of their hopelessness, a ray of light enters that grows to blinding proportions. The stone is gone, rolled back. They hurry into the tomb, fearing the worst, but the tomb is filled with light instead of darkness. How? A man…? No, an angel! He is smiling at them. He gives a message of unbelievable good news. Jesus is risen! He will see you in Galilee! “This is really unbelievable,” they think to themselves. “People don’t rise from the dead.” But somehow the angel’s impossible words bring them comfort, peace and even belief. In their hearts they know that the impossible has really come true. We need to nourish hope. We need to center our hearts on what is good and true and beautiful, namely Jesus Christ and his plan of salvation. Herein lie my strength and joy.
- A New Perspective on Everything: The angel has given them a mission. They are to announce the Resurrection to the others. They have a message, and they know it is of the greatest importance. Jesus, their hope, is alive. As they head toward the Upper Room, their minds start to work on the startling news they have received, and they begin to understand many other things about Jesus. They remember how he spoke about having to suffer and die, but that he would rise. How strange they didn’t listen before. It seems so obvious now. The truth of the Resurrection makes everything new. Does the wonder of the Resurrection penetrate my entire life filling me with peace and joy? If not, why not? Am I convinced that the best way I can witness to Christ is by a life that is “full” and truly happy, whatever the vicissitudes I may suffer?
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, if I really believed that this life was a preparation for the next, I would put a lot more effort into pleasing you more every day. Help me to believe that a Christian only rents his tomb and that his treasures are not stored up in this life, but the next.
Resolution: Today, as I prepare for the celebration of the Resurrection, I will take stock of my life. I will ask myself, “Does the Resurrection really make a difference to me?” Do I really live differently from those who don’t accept Christ because I believe in the Resurrection? Or is my belief merely a veneer that allows me to think of myself as a Christian when really nothing in the way I live distinguishes me from those who are not Christians? Having made this evaluation, I will correct something that needs changing so as to show I believe in the Resurrection with all my heart.