Early in the morning before sunrise — after the denizens of the night have ceased their chorus and before the birds herald the day — have you ever noticed how quiet it is?
Utter silence, filled with anticipation for the new day.
At the end of Lent 2011, we once again stand on the threshold of celebrating the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who redeemed mankind by his sacrifice. Between the sorrow of Good Friday and Easter’s elation, there lies Holy Saturday.
In his meditation on “The Mystery of Holy Saturday” last May in Turin before its famous shroud, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Holy Saturday is the day when God remains hidden. We read in an ancient homily: ‘What has happened? Today the earth is shrouded in deep silence, deep silence and stillness, profound silence because the King sleeps. ... God has died in the flesh and has gone down to rouse the realm of the dead.’”
Is our time in history a silence in which God no longer speaks? We witness man’s increasing inhumanity toward man — in rebellions in North Africa and the Middle East, persecution of Christians in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, and the assault on the unborn all over the world — but Holy Saturday reminds us of our ultimate hope in Christ, who remains hidden but not inactive, sanctifying even solitude with his presence.
“Holy Saturday is a ‘no man’s land’ between the death and the Resurrection, but this ‘no man’s land’ was entered by One, the Only One, who passed through it with the signs of his passion for man’s sake,” the Pope said. “Jesus Christ, by remaining in death, passed beyond the door of this ultimate solitude to lead us, too, to cross it with him. We have all, at some point, felt the frightening sensation of abandonment, and that is what we fear most about death, just as when we were children we were afraid to be alone in the dark and could only be reassured by the presence of a person who loved us.
“Well, this is exactly what happened on Holy Saturday: The voice of God resounded in the realm of death. The unimaginable occurred: Namely, Love penetrated ‘hell.’ Even in the extreme darkness of the most absolute human loneliness we may hear a voice that calls us and find a hand that takes ours and leads us out. Human beings live because they are loved and can love; and if love even penetrated the realm of death, then life also even reached there. In the hour of supreme solitude we shall never be alone.”
That, the Pope said, is the mystery of Holy Saturday. On that day, while all was still, Jesus decisively transformed the world of darkness forever with the light of the Resurrection. Let us contemplate this mystery in this utter silence, filled with anticipation, as we await the One who does not disappoint.