“Holy Saturday, also called Easter Vigil, Christian religious observance that ends the Lenten season, falling on the day before Easter Sunday. The observance commemorates the final day of Christ’s death, which is traditionally associated with His triumphant descent into hell.” —Encyclopedia Brittanica (link)
“In the primitive Church Holy Saturday was known as Great, or Grand, Saturday, Holy Saturday, the Angelic Night, the Vigil of Easter, etc. It is no longer, like Maundy Thursday, a day of joy, but one of joy and sadness intermingled; it is the close of the season of Lent and penance, and the beginning of paschal time, which is one of rejoicing.” —Holy Saturday, in Catholic Answers (link)
1 O lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee:
2 Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry;
3 For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave.
4 I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength:
5 Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.
6 Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.
7 Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah. (link)
1 Lord, thou hast proved me, and known me:
2 Thou hast know my sitting down, and my rising up.
3 Thou hast understood my thoughts afar off: my path and my line thou hast searched out.
4 And thou hast foreseen all my ways: for there is no speech in my tongue.
5 Behold, O Lord, thou hast known all things, the last and those of old: thou hast formed me, and hast laid thy hand upon me.
6 Thy knowledge is become wonderful to me: it is high, and I cannot reach to it.
7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy face?
8 If I ascend into heaven, thou art there: if I descend into hell, thou art present.
9 If I take my wings early in the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea:
10 Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me.
11 And I said: Perhaps darkness shall cover me: and night shall be my light in my pleasures.
12 But darkness shall not be dark to thee, and night shall be light as day: the darkness thereof, and the light thereof are alike to thee.
13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast protected me from my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise thee, for thou art fearfully magnified: wonderful are thy works, and my soul knoweth right well. (link)
Letter #84, 2023 Saturday, April 8: The silence
Holy Saturday morning, 2023.
A day shrouded in mist, with the sun invisible behind a grey sky.
I write from Norcia, Italy, where St. Benedict of Nursia (480-547 A.D., link) the great founder of Western monasticism, was born more than 1,500 years ago.
Here, the Benedictine monks of Norcia are restoring Benedictine monasticism after a break of about 200 years, almost the entirety of the modern period of our history. (Here is a good link to their website.)
The monks, after deep silence that seems pregnant with hope and anticipation, break into song.
They chant the Psalms of King David, in Latin, and I am moved.
Where can we find God?
Where can the human longing for the eternal, and for the holy, find a response, from above, or below, or within?
Here, on Holy Saturday, during the great silence of the hours when the body of Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews, lay in the tomb, after his crucifixion on Good Friday, in this place, in this moment, the longing is validated, in the haunting chant of the Psalms, and in the silences that touch the heart.
We were not made for nothing.
Even in our deepest moments of doubt, and even in those moments when we risk losing all hope, there remains the longing for God.
This is what we are, and on Holy Saturday, the dignity of man is validated for all time.
In the hope of the promise.
In the love that endures beyond death. —RM
Note: If you would like to pilgrimage to Rome and Germany with me, studying the writing and life of Pope Benedict XVI, consider joining our pilgrimage “In the Footsteps of Pope Benedict XVI,” June 28 to July 6 this summer (link).
P.S. Inside the Vatican magazine subscriptions are available at a price of $20 per year in honor of the 30th year since our founding. After Easter, the offer will no longer be available…. Click here to subscribe at this very reduced rate.
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