Part #1: Holy Saturday

Since last week’s initial exploration of Holy Saturday, I have been trying to figure out where to go next. It is not so much that I do not know what I want to offer for reflection, as much as it is that the general length of a blog often requires focus and attentive intention. In other words, there’s way more that I can talk about than the space this medium might allow. So I thought I might try to do two things:

  1. Briefly review the history of Holy Saturday; and,
  2. Connect Holy Saturday with privilege and trauma.

Let’s see if that’s possible …

Witness: Lament's Tears

Witness: Lament’s Tears

In the Christian calendar, the most important time of year is the Lenten season, which ends with the celebration of Easter. The weekend that culminates in this 40-day journey (in late winter-early spring) begins with Good Friday. Good Friday is the day we remember that Jesus was tortured and executed by the Roman Empire. The Sunday that follows – Easter – is the story of resurrection and hope in the midst of odds that are too long to count. What many – especially mainstream Protestant – often gloss over(look) is the day in between: Holy Saturday.

Often, what happens, is that somewhere on a continuum people either focus on the torture and suffering (Good Friday) or the joyful celebration of new life (Easter). Not that these are bad or inappropriate responses to this very old and sacred story. There is an aspect to the tradition, however, that I would suggest helps us in this discussion that began with reflecting on #BlackLivesMatter & Steinbach Pride last week.

For those of us who benefit from a history of privilege, in my Christian context The United Church of Canada, Holy Saturday offers a place to pause and reflect. According to 1 Peter 3:19–20, this day is ripe with meaning as it falls between lament and jubilation. It is the day in which Jesus was not only dead, but in fact found himself on a fast track straight to Hell! And – in that place of myth and story, truth and metaphor – he saw and endured the pains of those lost and suffering. He saw truths and torment better left to the imagination and which often we would rather avoid …

What I think this Holy Saturday offers the church, as it wrestles with its own history, is an opportunity to witness, truly see and hear the suffering we have caused. For some, this has already begun with our denomination’s apology in 1986 and our ongoing support and journey with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This is indeed faithful work, but I think it is misses something because we still would rather not witness in respect to our complicity as settlers and colonisers.

Witness: Joy Dawns

Witness: Joy Dawns

One of the realities, I feel, we must confront from our position of privilege is whether we are looking for solutions and healing simply from our heads. Do we want to experience resolution through logic, where mind and body are divided? And though there are indeed those in our midst who have bravely and courageously witnessed the stories of survivors, I think as a denomination we stand in a place of critical reflection: have we rationalised that reconciliation is an intellectual journey in which words and position papers, apologies and sermons allow us to claim that we have lived into Right Relations? To what extent have the several thousand worshipping communities across Canada truly engaged in witnessing our past by walking with and engaging with First Nations survivors, Elders and communities, who are willing to actually trust that we long for reconciliation?

For those who work with people who have experienced trauma – and I would say that certainly applies to people who have endured oppression based on sexual orientation, gender identity, racial, religious and linguistic marginalisation – you can find some connexion with Christian theology, doctrine or world view. For those who experience trauma it is not logical or confined to space and time. It is embodied, deeply entrenched and there is no ‘fix,’ that can allow those who witness and journey with to acquiesce or rationalise that ‘enough has been done.’ In fact, that response – I would gently though directly offer – is simply one example of our privilege and reticence to recognise where we have been and what we have done … As such, engaging in a practice suggested by Holy Saturday, therefore, might open our hearts and eyes …

This two-part blog began in the paradox of joy and horror coexisting. There is not easy answer to systemic racism or marginalisation. There can indeed be trite explanations that allow us (the privileged) some sense of not looking into the mirror, that we have done all we can. This is hard work, journeying in the model that Jesus invites us to embrace as disciples will demand of us to see things horrible and glorious.

We will weep with joy and – yes most assuredly – with lament. If we do not take brave, though perhaps admittedly quivering steps into awful realities of human experience, then it is not solidarity that we endeavour toward. If we stay in what we know and entrench where we are, we perpetuate systems that will continue to exploit and leave us all less than we might be as One … certainly not simple, but it does beckon us toward what Christians call the Good News

Part #1: Holy Saturday