At the Still Point of the Turning World: Living Holy Saturday With Our Lady

COMMENTARY: From Mary we can learn to calmly place ourselves beside the tomb, praying in trust of God and waiting for the Resurrection. She teaches us how to embrace God’s will for us again and again in the stillness of our hearts.

‘Christ Taking Leave of His Mother’
‘Christ Taking Leave of His Mother’ (photo: Piotr Stachiewicz/public domain)

I climb alone into the car and start the engine. I am standing in the line at the grocery store — alone among strangers. Those five minutes of being early — nothing to do and no one to talk to. Standing before the stove. Weeding the garden. Vacuuming the rugs. Washing the dishes. Beside the child doing homework. Waiting for the meeting to start. Going for a run. Taking a walk. Waiting on hold; waiting for a text; waiting for an email; waiting for a ride. 

“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;             
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement” (Burnt Norton, II., 62-64). 

T.S. Eliot’s words from the Four Quartets can be applied to all of our daily mundane moments: Our lives are “the dance” and the still point is those present moments. No matter how busy we are, there is the still point — that quiet that hits us — and we shrink from the “growing terror of nothing to think about” (East Coker, III.,121). We try to fill those moments: with noise, talk, to-do lists, anxieties. The truth is we are not sure what to do with the quiet within ourselves.

The quiet that we so avoid is the same quiet as Holy Saturday: of waiting for Jesus to come back, to make all things well. For all of us, this life is like an extended Holy Saturday — and it is often a long, hard struggle. We avoid the dullness perhaps because it is hard to face the truth that we are the reason that Holy Saturday happened in the first place. 

But we need Holy Saturday every year in our liturgical lives to remind us of how to live in those still, but full, Holy Saturday moments, where we realize that we are still on the journey; and while the kingdom of God is here — we are not fully in it. 

It often feels like we are waiting beside the tomb, where Jesus lies dead in the Holy Sepulchre — in the hearts of loved ones who have left the faith or in our own hearts attached too strongly to sin. 

Often, we do not remember that Christ is harrowing hell at that moment — defeating death — and making a way to redeem our suffering and bring about good in the end.

Christ is still lying dead in so many parts of us — where we cannot forgive another, where we have not yet repented of our sin, where we prefer something created over the love of God. The Lord is waiting to rise in us again and again and again. And so we live in that still point — where it is not just us stuck in that moment: The Blessed Mother waits for us as well. She wants us to rise, to make our lives a resurrected life as we journey with her Son, the Risen Christ. 

It is the same for other people in my life as I pray for the conversion of loved ones or for someone to change for the better. I must turn to the Blessed Mother, enter into her Holy Saturday sorrow and wait out the long night, trusting and hoping that God has a will and a plan for my loved ones.

We all know the waiting of a long night like the ones the Blessed Mother waited through. How many times have we had to wait through a restless night for morning? Waited and prayed for news of the birth of a baby? Worryingly feared a dear one’s death? We have laid awake in sickness and in pain. We have been consumed with worry over bills to be paid. We have kept vigil with a teething baby, a sick child or aging parent. And this life is an extension of those long nights. As much joy as we have at the glimpses of heaven on earth, they pale in comparison to the joy that we will have. 

The Blessed Mother, if we join ourselves to her in prayer, will teach us how to wait, as she waited the three days her Son was lost in Jerusalem as a child — and as she waited the three days when her Son was in the tomb. On those days the Blessed Mother had to truly lean into “the still point of the turning world.” As all in her mind and heart revolved around Jesus, she is the model for us in how to live in our still moments that we would rather fill with noise. We know her to be a woman who magnified the Lord with her whole being. Instead of giving into distractions, she remembered all the Lord had done for her and met him in the stillness of her heart. From her we can learn to calmly place ourselves beside the tomb, praying in trust of God and waiting for the Resurrection. She teaches us how to embrace God’s will for us again and again in the stillness of our hearts. 

Caryll Houselander writes in The Reed of God that imitating the Blessed Mother’s words:

“‘Be it done unto me according to thy word’ surrenders yourself and all that is dear to you to God, and the trust which it implies does not mean just trusting God to look after you and yours. [ ... ] It means much more, it means trusting that whatever God does with you and with yours it is the act of an infinitely loving Father” (p. 47).

 With the Blessed Mother, let us offer all that is dead in us and all of those for whom we wait for conversion to the Lord. This Holy Week and Triduum, as we await the joy of Easter, remember that while we are living with Easter hope, we are not done waiting. We must journey on in this life with Hope — hope that the Lord will keep his promises — and find the place of quiet waiting, that waiting of Holy Saturday. And with the Blessed Mother, believe that the Lord will keep his promises to us.

When you find yourself, no matter what day it is in the liturgical calendar, in a Holy Saturday moment of stillness — the daily commute, the wait in the doctor’s office, the loneliness before a simmering pot, the minutes before drifting to sleep — join the Blessed Mother in her trustful waiting for the joys of eternity.