What are we to make of this strange day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday? Christ has died, but he has not yet been raised. On this in-between day, there is not the sorrowful Bach cantata or the joyful Easter trumpet. Instead, there is only silence.
But there is a power in this silence. In the Apostles’ Creed, we say that Jesus “…was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day…” In this silence, in this death, God in fact descends to be among the God-forsaken, the dead, the lost.
Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar writes these words about Holy Saturday: The verse of the psalm: “If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there!” (Ps 139:8) thus receives a whole new meaning. And even the battle cry “God is dead” – that self-asserting [dictum]of the sinner who is finished with God – gains a whole new meaning that God himself has established…Only in absolute weakness does God want to give each freedom created by him the gift of a love that breaks out of every dungeon and dissolves every constriction: in solidarity, from within, with those who refuse all solidarity.
On Holy Saturday, we remember that there is nowhere we can go where God will not follow. Not even our faithlessness in God can stop God from coming to find us in love. On this Holy Saturday, God in Jesus Christ stoops down low to scoop up every last person in order to bring all into the salvation and light of Easter.
Let us pray: Holy God, Thank you for coming to me in times of silence, darkness, and doubt. Help me to trust that there is no place I can go apart from your love. Continue to walk with me through these Three Days, through the mystery of your Passion, death, and resurrection. On this Holy Saturday, be especially near to all who suffer from depression and isolation. Be especially near to all who do not believe in you. Bring us all into the light and joy of your salvation. Amen.
Hans Urs von Balthasar, Explorations in Theology, Vol. 4: Spirit and Institution(Ignatius Press, 1995).