During this season, which many Christians call “Holy Week,” I am perversely drawn to Saturday. Perhaps it is because the Saturday between “Good” Friday and Resurrection Day is, for others a sort of relief. For them it is a day off from the relentless grieving and guilt associated with Lent—at least for those who take the Roman faith seriously. For others “Holy Saturday” becomes business as usual or, at best, the last day to buy and sell before Easter.
I am drawn to Saturday because it is the day between suffering and glory; between accomplishment and vindication. Today is an awkward in-between day that is neither fully this nor fully that. On Friday the attention is on the stations of the cross. On Sunday the attention is, as it ought to be, on the resurrected Savior. On Saturday, however, the attention of the church, such as it is, falls upon the tomb.
The Heidelberg Catechism has one question devoted to this aspect of our Lord’s humiliation:
41. Why was He “buried”?
To show thereby that He was really dead
The early versions of the Creed alternated between “sepultus” (buried) and “descendit” (he descended) as synonyms. Eventually, as the doctrine of Jesus’ descent to the place of the dead (ad inferna) or to the dead ones (ad inferos) the “descendit” took on a life of its own and the the “sepultus” was neglected.
The burial of our Lord was another part of his ignominy. Foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere even to be buried. So Joseph of Arimathea provided a tomb fit for a king. While Jesus was entombed he was silent. Finished were the cries and taunts of the cross but it was not yet time for the triumphal declaration: “He is risen.”
Today is a day of silence, and yet the work of salvation, of deliverance from the curse and its effects, continues. We can see the work of salvation on the cross and we see it in the empty tomb, but neither of those means anything without the three days in the belly of the whale, in the womb of death, from which he must emerge.
Today, God is, as it were, silent but he is not asleep. The tomb is ugly, but it is also sanctus. Today is the in-between time. The first act is finished but the curtain, though torn, is not closed.
This post appeared originally on the HB 22 March 2008.