15 Apr 2017

Keeping Vigil at the Tomb of the Lord

"He was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended to the dead.............."

Holy Saturday, Sabbatum Sanctum in Latin, is the last day of Holy Week, and the 40th day of the traditional Lenten fast, although Lent ends liturgically on the evening of Holy Thursday. The evening of Holy Saturday begins the third and final day of the Paschal Triduum. In the Latin Church, no Masses are celebrated on Holy Saturday, and the day is essentially a sparse time of reflection upon Christ's death and burial in anticipation of the Great Vigil of Easter (Paschal Vigil). The vigil usually begins the night of Holy Saturday, lasting until Easter morning. Very little happens on Holy Saturday, that is until the beginning of the Great Paschal Vigil.


How does our meditation on the meaning of Holy Saturday challenge us to act while we are still among the living? Christians by definition are followers of Christ, called to do what he did: “Do this in memory of me”. But it is profoundly disturbing to consider fully what “this” might entail. 
We can begin, as all prayer should, by giving thanks. Taking up a line of the Easter Exultet, we can reflect upon “What good would life have been to us, had Christ not come as our Redeemer?” The state of being dead, of all that is good, true and beautiful in us and in life being vanquished, defeated and swallowed up in a deathly void; this would have been our permanent fate if Christ had not died for us and been raised from the dead. To appreciate being rescued, we need to contemplate what we have been rescued from. 
As we reflect on Christ’s descent into hell, are we not also invited to consider the various hells that are our own construction work in progress, or which we already partially occupy? The no-go signs we have already erected against God’s grace, the self-destructive places in our inner lives to which we retreat whether out of fear or pain, and from which we inevitably emerge only to wound and hurt? Can we dare to believe in the power of “the weakness of love” to reach us and heal us?And what about all of those whose innocent lives have been crushed and who have been condemned to a hellish existence by the actions, inaction and inhumanity of others? Can we take time in prayer to enter into solidarity with them in their profound sense of abandonment and desolation?
Continue reading reflection from Fr Eamonn Conway here.

Once again we have reached Holy Saturday, a day of great silence and stillness as earth awaits the Resurrection. Our churches are empty of colour and warmth, there are no sacraments to affirm the bonds between this world and the next, and we experience to the full what life without Christ is like. For a monk or nun, indeed for most of us, I suspect, life is largely lived in ‘Holy Saturday mode’ as we go on, as best we can, waiting, waiting, waiting for God to act. Today, when the threat of war hangs heavy over the world, the illusion of control with which we try to comfort ourselves at other times is revealed for what it is: sheer illusion. Most of the big things that affect our lives are entirely beyond our control, but we ignore that. We like to think that we are in charge — only we aren’t, really. Does that mean we are mere puppets, eking out our existence in bitterness of soul, without hope? Surely not. God created us in his own image and likeness, and there is in each of us something that reflects, uniquely and beautifully, our Creator. We are called to co-operate with him, to allow grace to transform us, but we waste so much time trying to resist, to do things our own way. It takes Holy Saturday to jerk us back into reality.
Continue reading at iBenedictines HERE.




A reading from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday
The Lord's descent into hell

"What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: 'My Lord be with you all.' And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

'See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.


`I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

"The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages." 


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