This is the seventh, or maybe the eighth, year I’ve written about Holy Saturday. It’s gotten to be a fixture on my calendar, even though the dates change from year to year.
Usually, I write about the flurry of activity at the church on the morning of Holy Saturday, with preparations going on for the Easter Vigil, often held on Saturday night, and the succession of Easter services beginning very early Sunday morning. The members of the Altar Guild are busily arranging lilies and flowers, polishing the pews and altar rails, bringing out the Paschal Candle, and placing it in its tall stand, as well as putting out small candles with their paper collars to catch dripping wax for the Vigil. They set the altar with the brightest, whitest fair linens. The brass and silver items have been polished until they gleam. The altar that was bare on Friday evening is now covered with the vessels and candles that show the joy and celebration that will come on Sunday morning.
This year, though, is unlike any of the Holy Saturdays I’ve written about before. Granted, some churches will have their usual pre-Easter business in preparation for Easter services without congregations, and only a few clergy and/or laypeople there to transmit the services to those who join them via the Internet. It will be a very different kind of Easter celebration. Still, it will happen, regardless of the reason that the usually overflowing pews are empty.
Holy Saturday is always kind of a catch-your-breath kind of day, after the busyness of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Stations of the Cross, and the Maundy Thursday vigil. Easter will be a hectic day, and generally, the Monday following Easter is very quiet with clergy and lay workers taking the day off to recoup their energies after a very strenuous week.
The thing about Holy Saturday this year is that people are staying home, possibly with a short venture out to the store for last-minute supplies (if they can find them), and then back home to wash their hands profusely and wipe down the items they’ve bought. Unless they work from home, it will be a day very much like every day for the past couple of weeks. People will read, watch streaming TV or cable programming, possibly yard work, and do the usual chores that have to be done. Homes with children will color Easter eggs for the Easter Bunny to hide, whether inside or in the yard. Ingredients for tomorrow’s meal will be assembled, as will the Easter baskets full of chocolate, marshmallow bunnies and chicks, golden coins, and dyed eggs. It is still a busy day.
One important thing to think about is tomorrow. It will be different not going to church in new clothes and shoes, sometimes with corsages and boutonnieres pinned or tucked on the front. There won’t be people going out to pack restaurants and filling up on ham, turkey, prime rib, crown rib, lamb, or anything else. Perhaps many will have ordered a meal for the whole family and will pick it up on Saturday to be warmed up on Sunday. There will be smaller groups than usual at the table, and many more tables in various homes will have perhaps only one or two sitting there, sharing a festive meal.
One thing that won’t change about tomorrow is that it is indeed Easter Sunday, the day we commemorate the day Jesus rose from the dead and returned to us in human form before ascending to heaven forty days later. Just because we may be in self-imposed (or even governmentally-imposed) quarantine, it doesn’t change the fact that Jesus is risen, after a period of despair and hopelessness, and has conquered death, just as we all will at some point in time. He promised this, and Jesus’s promises are things we can believe in wholeheartedly, even amid disease, exhaustion, and fear. Jesus has risen! We should be rejoicing!
We have tomorrow to look forward to, no matter what is going on outside in the world around us. Even if the church bells are silent, the churches are empty, and the day feels very much like every other day lately, we still remember it is Easter, and we should rejoice! If we can’t shout it from the housetops, we should always shout it in our hearts and minds, and be glad.
Forgive me if I am jumping the gun on Easter. Things have been gloomy, frustrating, fear- and anxiety-filled these past days, and I am not the only person on earth to feel this way. Perhaps this Easter may turn out to be the most joyous one ever, simply because it is something that brings us hope in the darkness, celebration amid despair, and a reason for rejoicing despite all the gloom and doom. Easter is something to be celebrated, no matter what the circumstances. Perhaps those in the early church believed this more than we are today, simply because their lives were much like ours now—with little to celebrate and much to dismay us. Easter for them was a reminder that better things are coming, even if it takes a while. Easter gives us that opportunity to remember and to kindle a little spark of hope in our own hearts and lives, and also to share that joy with others, even if it is over a medium like the Internet.
To quote the Psalmist, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Ps. 30:5c-d). To quote Captain Jean-Luc Picard, “Make it so!”
Christus Anesti! Joyeux Pâques! Felices Pascuas! Frohe Ostern! God Påske! Maligayang Pasko ng Pagkabuhay!
God bless us all.