Holy Saturday is the one day in Holy Week in which I feel awkwardly immobile. Not at-rest immobile, or incapacitated immobile, but just… paused.. halted… in a spiritual way.
There is a tradition in the Christian church that tells us that on Holy Saturday, Jesus was very busy- seeking our first ancestors, eternity’s lost sheep and drawing them from the depths of hell. The “Harrowing of Hell” is a tradition begun in the early church and discussed in some detail by the Church Fathers Origen, Irenaeus, Epiphanius and St Ambrose- it is supported in a scant way by the line in the Apostles’ Creed that says “.. he descended to the dead” (Rite II) and, more clearly, in Rite I: “he descended into hell.” (I remember as a child being asked to memorize the Apostles’ Creed in Sunday school and giggling with my other 2nd grade classmates about being allowed to say the word “hell.” Innocent days!) And there is another line in scripture that advocates of this position use to affirm its truth- 1 Peter 4:6 tells us that “good tidings were proclaimed to the dead.”
I did not grow up being taught about the Harrowing of Hell (other than that line in the Creed) and so it is not what I think about when I rise on Holy Saturday and greet the day.
I think about Jesus being dead. Dead in the tomb. Wrapped up in a shroud, lying on a hard shelf in a cave hewn out of stone, and just… dead. I know, of course, the end of the story, and so my grief is not too much to bear- Sunday (heck, Saturday night) will come in time.
But on Saturday morning, and late morning, and afternoon, and late afternoon… all day long… I am suspended. Not able, yet, to look around the corner at the kindling of the new fire that will gather us for scriptural storytelling to recount the history of God’s faithfulness to us… no, and certainly not able or ready to dance around the lilies and proclaim the great reversal of death- nope. Holy Saturday is a time to just be. Suspended. Paused.
And so- we took to the woods. (It’s a thing, as you may be learning with me.)
Glenn and I found another section of the trail to hike that was unpopulated- along the eastern side of the Cumberland Valley headed north on the path through cornfields and rape-weed meadows, over leaf strewn paths, and alongside the Conodoguinet Creek.
The walk was long and slow. I decided to focus on the intricacy of the wildflowers along our path- I always marvel at God’s hand in creating such perfect miniature, living works of art.
We made it back for supper. And at 7:00 I will look at the service prepared for us by St. James. (find it at https://diocesecpa.org/holy-week-2020-holy-saturday-vigil/)We will hear the sacred stories, wonder at God’s care for us, and rejoice again, at the pinnacle of wonder in the resurrection of our Saviour. Tomorrow, we’ll do it again- wake early and listen to the earth sing that Christ is Risen…
Until then, blessings to you. Here are some pictures of God in the woods: