Saturday, April 15, 2017

Great or Holy Saturday

The cross on which Jesus was crucified is empty now.  He has been placed in a sepulcher—a borrowed tomb—belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, so scripture tells us.  

Today is the last day of Lent (the forty days preceding Easter) the last day of Holy Week, and the period called the Easter Triduum, the three days preceding Easter:  Holy or Maundy Thursday, (the Last Supper in the Upper Room, the betrayal in Gethsemane) Holy Friday (the crucifixion) and today, Holy Saturday.

According to the Liturgy of St. Basil, "He (Christ) gave Himself as a ransom to death in which we were held captive, … Descending into Hades through the Cross ... He loosed the bonds of death,” or as the Apostle’s Creed has it, “He (Christ) descended into hell,” and there released those held captive in the “prison of death.”  (By the way, The United Methodist Church deleted the phrase “descended into hell” from their version of the Apostle’s Creed some years ago). 

Whatever one may think or believe actually happened on this Saturday called Great or Holy those many centuries ago, it does provide an element of hope (whether taken figuratively or literally).  "Despite the daily vicissitudes and contradictions of history and the abiding presence of hell within the human heart and human society," life is liberated!

Kimberlee C. Ireton, in her book, Circle of the Seasons, describes an Eastern Orthodox icon showing Jesus "striding victoriously into hell and reaching out in love even to the dead and the damned."  She suggests that this image reminds us that there is no place where God is not.  And in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, even on Holy Saturday when Jesus' body lay in the tomb, he was bringing freedom to captives and prisoners.  I like that thought and it makes Great Saturday for me, Holy!
Antelope Canyon, AZ--2016

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